WASHINGTON-The California low emission vehicle program (CalLEV) remains a sore point between state environmental officials and the auto industry, according to speakers at the Society of Automotive Engineers 1994 Government/Industry Meeting, held recently in Washington. A private consultant and an official of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) disagreed about wildly conflicting cost estimates for the implementation of CalLEV. Also, representatives of Northeastern state air pollution agencies presented the case for adopting CalLEV in their region, while spokesmen for the Big Three auto makers argued for their milder ``FedLEV'' proposal.
Sierra Research Inc. recently performed a CalLEV cost estimate study for the American Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Earlier, according to Thomas Austin of Sierra Research, the CARB estimated CalLEV pollution control requirements will add $146 to the cost of each new vehicle, because of the cost of new vehicle technology. For zero emission vehicles (ZEVs)-electric cars-it said the added cost would be $1,019.
``In developing our methodology, we reviewed the work of major organizations which showed horrible inconsistencies,'' Mr. Austin said. The result of the Sierra survey, he added, was an estimated increased cost of $1,019 per vehicle for LEVs and $21,034 per vehicle for ZEVs.
``There were more similarities than differences in assumptions on technology'' between the CARB and Sierra studies, according to Mr. Austin. ``But while the CARB recognized there would be new catalyst systems for vehicles, they made very low cost assumptions, when in fact manufacturers have made very sophisticated changes.''
Rebutting Mr. Austin, Tom Cackette of the CARB said Sierra had grossly overestimated the costs of CalLEV. In fact, he said, the board recently reduced its cost estimates for LEVs, to $112 per vehicle.
In estimating compliance costs, the CARB assumed 76 percent would come from new components, the rest being variable and supplier costs. No cost breakdown was possible for Sierra's study.
Last Feb. 1, the Ozone Transport Commission-a consortium of 12 states and the District of Columbia created by the Clean Air Act of 1990-petitioned the EPA for adoption of CalLEV standards in the Northeast.
If the EPA agrees to this, it will be ``a difficult challenge'' for the agency, according to Mary Nichols, EPA assistant administrator for the office of Air and Radiation. The agency has only until Nov. 15-the deadline for filing of Clean Air state implementation plans-to write regulations allowing CalLEV standards in the OTC region.
The OTC proposal was developed by northeastern governors and environmental officials, she said. ``They are saying to the EPA that though they will vigorously obey Clean Air Act provisions, they don't feel they can achieve its emissions reduction goals with those provisions alone,'' she said.
Massachusetts passed a bill requiring CalLEV standards soon after the Clean Air Act was passed, noted Michael Bradley of NESCAUM, an association of air quality officials in eight Northeastern states. New York and New Jersey also have passed CalLEV.
``The states tried to work things out with the auto industry, and create some consensus on moving forward,'' Mr. Bradley said. ``Unfortunately, the auto industry walked away, and the states proceeded on CalLEV.''
Auto makers successfully challenged the New York CalLEV plan in federal court, largely because New York's plan did not allow the use of reformulated fuels.
``The states didn't want reformulated fuels,'' said Alan Weverstad of General Motors Corp. ``We can understand that, since those fuels are more expensive than conventional fuels, and the states didn't have refineries for them. What we didn't understand was why we had to have the CalLEV standard without the benefit of those fuels.''
Conflicting vehicle warranties were also a concern, he said, as well as the fear of consumers in CalLEV states crossing the border to non-CalLEV states to buy cheaper, non-complying vehicles.
To end the spat, the Big Three automakers came up with their own emissions control proposal, called ``FedLEV''-or CalLEV with federal fuels, Mr. Weverstad said, adding, ``...it's apparently not enough of what the OTC wanted.''
On the other hand, Mr. Bradley said it's ``unclear that FedLEV would be any cheaper than CalLEV. From an overall air quality management standpoint, FedLEV is very unattractive.''