Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Environmental Performance Labels

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

Beginning this year, new cars sold in California will be required to display an Environmental Performance label. There will be two numeric values

  • Global Warming Score
  • Smog Score

The scores will be on a 1-10 scale, with the higher values indicating lower environmental impacts. Presumably, the “average” vehicle will receive 5 scores.

California Environmental Performance Label

California Environmental Performance Label

According to this California website

  • the Global Warming Score is based on greenhouse gas emissions – nitrous oxide, methane, A/C refrigerant, and carbon dioxide – from vehicle operation and fuel production.
  • the Smog Score is based on smog-forming emissions – non-methane organic gases, oxides of nitrogen, and hydrocarbons –  from vehicle operation.

Here is a car that gets a very good score

Green Car

Green Car

I suppose to get a really good idea of a car’s environmental costs, the following could have been considered

  • fabrication
  • import of car/parts
  • maintenance
  • recyclability  of consumables such as batteries, tires, fluids (oil, coolant, and brake fluid), brake pads and rotors, belts and hoses, etc.
  • recyclability of the non-consumables

I can’t say that I am surprised by this new sticker. We are talking about California, after all. I always thought it was pretty obvious that the Prius was easier on the environment than the Hummer. That higher mileage vehicles were better than lower mileage. That Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) were better than the average vehicle, etc.

Living in the Washington DC area, and having ridden the Orange Line (of the DC subway) for the past two and a half years, I see lots of hybrid cars on I-66. Many of the folks that live “further out” have purchased these cars because of the tax breaks and the commuting benefits (i.e., they can drive in the HOV lanes without additional passengers). That is, they make an economic decision to purchase these vehicles that has nothing to do with environmental costs whatsoever.

I have chosen to not live “so far out”. In fact, I have chosen to live within walking distance of the Metro Station. I have chosen to live in a smaller house, on a smaller lot, than some of these hybrid drivers that live out in Manassas or Centreville or Haymarket. I don’t get a tax break and I don’t get to drive the HOV by myself. Yet I suspect that I may have a lower overall environmental impact than some of the folks driving from Manassas to DC.

I believe that New York will be going with an Environmental Performance sticker for model year 2010. And I believe that California will be unveiling the following labels in 2011 or 2012.

  • Drive-By Performance Label, which rates a vehicle on qualities such as height of cabin, tint of windows, volume of bass, getaway speed, and storage space for Glocks. Rather than a 1-10 scale, I believe the scale will be 9, 40, 357, and 45. It could be confusing.
  • Chick-Magnet Performance Label, which rates a vehicle on the following dimensions: cute, bad-ass, expensive, and gay.