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Federal Court Rejects Challenge to California Vehicle GHG Regulations

US District Judge Anthony Ishii (Eastern District of California) today ruled that both the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of California are equally empowered under the Clean Air Act to set regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The court also ruled that California regulations do not conflict with federal authority.

Under the decision, the Court rejected a challenge that US foreign policy and federal fuel economy laws preempt state authority to curb emissions. The Court also ruled that if the EPA grants the waiver for the implementation of the GHG rules, enforcement of the regulations by California or by any other state adopting the AB 1493 Regulations will be consistent with federal law.

The ruling came in a case that originally began three years ago (7 December 2004), when some California autodealers, supported by the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM), filed a suit seeking judgement that the California GHG regulations (which require an approximate 30% reduction in vehicular greenhouse gas emissions, starting with model year 2009) were pre-empted by federal law.

This is the fourth major legal victory for California and a stinging rejection of the automobile industry’s legal challenge to greenhouse gas emissions standards.

—California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.

The court held that there is no conflict between EPA’s or California’s duty to regulate emissions and the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s authority to set fuel efficiency standards. The court held that mileage standards should be harmonized with the California’s emission regulations.

The decision leaves the EPA as the last remaining roadblock to implementing the law. Under the Clean Air Act, California can adopt this standard if it obtains a waiver from the EPA. After two years of delay on this request, Attorney General Brown and Governor Schwarzenegger sued the EPA in November, demanding a response. (Earlier post.)

Fourteen other states—the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the States of New York, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection—joined California as interveners in that lawsuit against EPA.

In September, a Vermont District Court also ruled in favor of the state regulations, rejecting a similar challenge from the automobile industry. (Earlier post.)

EPA has said it will make a decision by the end of the year.




The automakers have lost an important battle here, they will probably appeal, but it will be just a waste of time since it is clear that California will win over time. If EPA releases the waiver by end of this year the Congress and Senate who failed to pass the new CAFE standards will look just miserable and for good reasons. Guess that Bush will do everything to delay the EPA to release the waiver, but it won't last for ever. The big three should speed up their fuel efficiency development programs otherwise they might have hard time to sell their cars.



The automakers knew this was coming. GM is now taking their E-flex drive for the Volt very seriously. A123 and others are already delivering prototype 16 KWh battery packs and the Volt body design is undergoing streamlining in the wind tunnel. At last count there were nearly 7,000 people on an unofficial wait list at gm-volt.com.

The rest of the automakers need to get on board now if they know what's good for them.



I am pretty sure that Lutz is excited by the Volts program that would put GM back in the race for alternative energy car, still I am not convinced that they believe or intend to put the volts in mass production, I think that they target a niche market of a few then of thounsands vehicle to give make thei image greener and avoid and get credit to keep producing gazz guzzler in volume. The reason why I beliee this is that the technology allows to make vehicle that get 40 MPG or better using current technology or even better with some improvment (better cd, some gainm in weight, mild hybrid, downsizing, direct injection, variable compression ratio etc), but they simply don't want to do it. Also the concept of series hybrid of the volt will yield a very heavy vehicle which will be both very expensive and not very efficient.


GM can not afford to lose any more money, so the E-Flex has to be a sure thing for them to go ahead with it. A series hybrid would offset a lot of their other vehicles emissions.



The Volt uses 200 Wh per mile in all electric mode, yielding 40 miles from 8KWh of the 16KWh battery, leaving it in a 50% state of charge when the range extending engine kicks in. The range extending engine is in the 1.0 to 1.2 liter range, and the decision has not yet been made whether to offer a diesel option, which would get even better mileage than ethanol or gasoline. This is a very small engine compared to most cars. The car can be driven indefinitely with the engine running and keeping the battery in charge sustaining mode. I've heard fuel economy figures in the 60MPG range for this mode. But if like most people you plug it in for local trips, this could be equivalent to hundreds of miles per gallon of gasoline for most commuters. Price is expected to be $30K to start. GM has committed to producing this car, stating they plan to make at least 60,000 the first year. When a company this large puts that high of a priority on something, and we see the development this far advanced, we can be pretty sure they're serious. Also, the E-flex program could eventually be applied to any of their vehicles.



Hope you are right, but a 1.2 litter gaz engine + 30KW generator + 100KW electric engine + 16KWh battery is a hell of weight. Weigth is the ennemy of fuel efficiency. OK the gaz engine should always work at his optimum efficiency and is probably a simplified engine with less friction but still. Diesel would make a lot of sense but would be heavier and requires heavy and costly cleaning system.

GM comitted to quite a lot of things they never deliver before so will see if this time they keep their words...



At the speeds more people travel, aerodynamics can play as much of a role, if not a greater role, than rolling resistance. Given that the Crr of passenger tires can vary from .006 to .02, going with a smooth rolling tire would provide the equivalent of significant weight reduction w/o the larger penalty in comfort/functionality.

The only reason for a diesel engine would be specific biofuel compatibility, which is some ways off given current production. Like you said, if a gasoline ICE is just as efficient in that application, why pay significantly more for a diesel with only marginal efficiency advantages?


I don't think the Volt has indefinite range using the engine. If I recall correctly, the Volt has a total range of around 640 miles before it must be again fully charged. Additionally, the longer it goes without being plugged in, the more its fuel economy drops. So, if you only drive about 100 miles, the Volt could achieve more than 100 mpg. However, if you drive several hundred miles, fuel economy could drop below 50 mpg.

I love the Volt, and more important, the E Flex drive, but there is a long way to go yet. So far GM only has 2 battery packs and those battery packs have yet to actually power a Volt. So, the fuel economy numbers could still drop, or go up.

I have no doubt that GM will succeed in producing the Volt, I do have some concerns about what the final cost of the vehicle will be, even if the battery pack is leased separately.

Depending upon price, GM might have to do a lot more to meet California's emissions than just the Volt.


The way oil prices and supply are going, the point is moot anyway. I've decided that there's no reason to be upset over this. The way the technology and prices are going, we'll surpass that 30% figure faster than the mandate. I fully expect to see a 40+ MPG full-sized E-Flex SUV by 2012.

Stan Peterson

Much ado about nothing. CARB and the umpteen copy cats will have created a standard to produce a CAFE equivalent of about 33 mpg. The US achieved CAFE forboth foreignand domesticautomakers is now almost 31 mpg,wiht the domestic automakers slightly ahead of the foreign automakers. Note that htsi is way over the mandated 27.5 mpg.

By the time that this nonsense regulation is in force, the actual achieved CAFE will far exceed it. And by then the idiocy of worrying about CO2 will be over, relegated to the dustbin of historical concerns ranging from population bombs, killer bees, Y2K hysteria, poisoned oceans, acid rain, to freons.

The IPCC has promised major changes in the face of mounting scientific evidence that CO2 is vastly overrated as a source of global warming. It will be reduced down to but 5-10% or original fears, and CO2 wouldn' tbe able to affect the climate, except on multi-thousands of years basis.


Looks like the point is really going to be moot anyway. The Senate just passed, by an 86-8 margin, increased CAFE standards after the Democrats removed the additional taxes they wanted. Bush has even promised he'll sign it. Even if he doesn't, there's a veto-proof margin. The House is expected to approve a similar version next week.


Does it matter anyway, 35 MPG by 2020, the price of oil will push the automakers to do better than that much faster. By 2012, we will have an oil crisis just like in 1973 when it will become cristal clear that non-OPEC oil countries are declining, The under-investments in oil industry during the 90s will translate in big problems soon, what we are seeing to day is just a joke compared to what's coming.



dustbin of historical concerns ranging from population bombs, killer bees, Y2K hysteria, poisoned oceans, acid rain, to freons.

Care to explain how acid rain and freons made it onto this list? Isn't that kind of like including the Holocaust and Roundness of Earth?

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