The PZEV conspiracy
The other day, as I was dropping off my son at his day care, I saw a Subaru Outback with a PZEV logo that got my attention. It looked like this:
When I got out, and looked more closely, I saw PZEV stood for "Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle." I thought this was some kind of joke -- something you might see on a fake Saturday Night Live advertisement. But it's no joke: I looked it up, and it appears that PZEV cars really do release very little hydrocarbon emissions into the atmosphere.
How little? According to an MSN article I read, Dirty Secret: Green Cars Automakers Won't Sell You, you release more hydrocarbons by mowing your lawn in one hour than you do driving 2000 miles in a PZEV car.
If you're like me, you probably just said "Wow!" The next logical question is, "Where can I buy one of these cars?" If you live New York, California, or six other Northeast states, you can go buy one right now. If not, you're out of luck. As the article states:
"Not only can't you buy one, but the government says it's currently illegal for automakers to sell these green cars outside of the special states. Under terms of the Clean Air Act--in the kind of delicious irony only our government can pull off--anyone (dealer, consumer, automaker) involved in an out-of-bounds PZEV sale could be subject to civil fines of up to $27,500. Volvo sent its dealers a memo alerting them to this fact, noting that its greenest S40 and V50 models were only for the special states."
That's right folks. You can't buy a car that's going to help the planet. Here's the reason (from Wikipedia) with the red text emphasized by me:
The reasoning is surmised that while modifications only cost $200 for the consumer, it costs as much as $1,500 for the automaker. If the car companies passed on the entire expense, it could hinder sales and slow the automaker's compliance with ultra-low-emission laws.
It seems like this reason is designed to, perhaps, protect the American auto manufacturers. But that's only the partial reason.
A blog from Edmunds.com explains that "politics and parsimony" have collided to make this mess:
The politics are regulatory. The federal Environmental Protection Agency doesn't have a PZEV category of its own, but won?t recognize the California rating, which can be applied only there and in the five states -- Oregon, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine -- that have adopted California emissions standards. No regulatory agency likes to hand any of its power over to another.
The parsimony is corporate. Automakers spend about $100,000 to get a model certified as a PZEV under California Air Resources Board rules. They would have to spend another $100,000 per model to get them cleared by the EPA, which insists on issuing its own certification even though it acknowledges that the cars are cleaner than required by the most stringent federal standard.
So whenever you read about those asinine bureaucratic schemes in China or Russia or Africa, you can feel good that the United States also participates in the same stupidity.
I for one will sleep better at night. And continue to drive my dirty Subaru Outback.