Green ‘Supercar’ programme could benefit car industry more than environment

US scientists have condemned the Clinton Administration's Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) programme, saying it could end up providing innovative technologies for existing diesel vehicles, rather than in bringing cleaner models to market.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) says the PNGV, a jointly funded by the US Government and the so-called Big Three car manufacturers – DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors – to build an 80-mile-per-gallon prototype ‘supercar,’ could threaten US air quality because of its reliance on diesel, and slow down attempts to improve the fuel economy standards of US-made cars and lorries. The scientists have called for the programme’s funding to be redirected to emerging hybrid and fuel cell technology.

The UCS – an independent alliance of green scientists – made its criticisms after Vice President Al Gore made his Keynote Address at the PNGV’s Concept Car Rollout. Gore told the meeting: “By reducing our dependence on foreign oil; by reducing pollution throughout our economy; and by positioning the American auto industry as the world leader in a crucial market in this new economy – the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles can help to keep our economic engine humming for decades to come.”

The UCS says that the prototypes showcased at the Rollout are diesel vehicles in disguise, and that they may never make it to market. Furthermore, the UCS says the auto industry wants to transfer PNGV-style technology to best-selling Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and light trucks in order to improve their performance. The UCS has described PNGV as merely “an environmental fig leaf that could threaten air quality while forestalling efforts to improve the fuel economy standards of Detroit’s cars and trucks.”

“By focusing on dirtier diesel technology, the Partnership puts our global warming goals on a collision course with air quality needs,” Jason Mark. Senior Transportation Analyst at UCS, told edie. “The Partnership will develop fuel-saving technologies in the laboratory, but there is no commitment to put them on the road.”

Mark told edie that the PNGV had created some environmental benefits, but mainly in other, competing countries. “The most promising outcome of PNGV is the international competition that it has spurred,” Mark said. “But the US has clearly lost the race for real greener vehicles. Toyota and Honda, with their much cleaner gasoline hybrid vehicles, have shown that boosting fuel economy can deliver air quality progress today. These are concrete steps. Unfortunately, PNGV has been used to stave off higher fuel economy standards in the US that would guarantee consumer and environmental protection.”

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