Chris Duffey - East Bay Express

The California government agency charged with protecting air quality in the Golden State appears set to kill off a burgeoning industry that is trying to protect the same air. As companies such as 3ProngPower pop up to convert existing hybrids to plug-in capability, they could be snuffed out by having to follow the same rules as the automakers. The California Air Resources Board will be deciding next week on new rules that would require conversion shops to do the same emissions tests and offer the same warranties that automakers do. Under CARB rules, parts that affect emissions have to be warranted for 10 years or 150,000 miles. 3Prong Power is using lead acid batteries that only last 2-3 years and a 10-year warranty would be economically impossible.

The other issue is emissions tests. In order to pass the emissions cycle, the catalytic converter must be working properly. The catalyst doesn't really function until it warms up, meaning that cold starts produce most of a vehicle's emissions. Automakers calibrate their hybrids to keep the engine running after the initial start until the catalyst warms up and then run it periodically to keep it warm. Tampering with the controls of the vehicle by adding plug-in capability could cause a problem with this, preventing the catalyst from ever warming up. Thus, if the engine runs for short periods you could end up with far more emissions than a conventional car.

[Source: East Bay Express]


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