March 5, 2007

Automotive engineers unveil clean, affordable minivan

Washington, D.C. – Automotive engineers from the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) have unveiled an affordable minivan design that uses existing technology but meets or exceeds global warming pollution standards for cars and trucks adopted by California and ten other states. UCS says that automakers are currently fighting these standards in court.

The minivan, called the UCS Vanguard, uses off-the-shelf engine, transmission and fuelling systems and other technologies that the engineers say would save consumers money, maintain vehicle safety and performance, and cut global warming pollution by more than 40 per cent. All of the Vanguard’s technologies are in vehicles on the road today, but have never before been combined into a single package.

The engineers say that the Vanguard minivan package would add about US$300 to the price, but result in more than US$1,300 in lifetime consumer savings, with a payback time of less than two years.

Among the Vanguard’s features are a six-cylinder engine with variable valve timing that can deactivate two cylinders when not required, an “automatic manual” transmission that electronically adjusts its six gears to increase performance and efficiency, stronger air conditioning hoses and tighter connections to reduce hydrofluorocarbon leaks, a less-polluting refrigerant, and the ability to run on E85 fuel.

California standards require a 34 per cent reduction in global warming pollution for cars and light trucks, and a 25 per cent reduction for larger trucks and SUVs within the next ten years. The state is the only one allowed under federal law to set air pollution standards higher than those imposed by the federal government; other states have the authority to follow California’s lead. Auto industry trade groups have filed lawsuits in California, Rhode Island and Vermont to block implementation.

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