Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf

Get this. The vehicles that automakers claimed was impossible years ago are exactly the ones they have featured at the LA Auto Show. Roland Hwang, the transportation program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council's energy program, walked the show this year and helped hand out the Green Car of the Year award to the Chevrolet Volt. As he did so, he was reminded of a time when automakers were adamant that diesels and clean air do not go hand in hand, that powerful vehicles cannot have low emissions and that no one will buy electric vehicles. My, how the times have changed!

Twelve years ago, Hwang testified in front of the California Air Resources Board and said there is no need to choose between clean air and fuel efficiency. At the time, he writes on the NRDC Switchboard, automakers claimed that we could have one or the other, but not both. Now, manufacturers like Audi and Volkswagen have clean diesel vehicles that offer great gas mileage and meet stringent air quality regulations. In 2004, automakers opposed the Pavley Clean Air Standards, saying that the CO2 emission limits proposed will cost consumers big money. Now, engines that meet this regulation are a prime selling point. Finally, automakers of the past were certain that no one would want electric vehicles, but now they are racing to get their plug-ins and EVs out to market.

So, what's the lesson to be learned in all of this? Hwang writes that we continue to push for vehicles that keep our air clean and have lower environmental impact than the vehicles that came before. If automakers resist, as they will, we should pass a regulation to get their creative juices flowing and, soon enough, what they once claimed was impossible will be the center of their marketing campaigns.

[Source: NRDC Switchboard]