Who's Killing Plug-in Hybrids, Part II



The California Air Resources Board is scheduled to again take up the issue of regulating hybrids today, May 28, in Sacramento. As we reported earlier, the air board told its staff to go back to the drawing board after small businesses that convert Toyota Priuses to plug-in hybrids said that proposed regulations would put them out of business. However, the staff's new proposed regulations would still effectively bankrupt small companies.

The new rules would allow small companies to sell up to ten conversion kits before having to undergo extensive emissions testing, which can cost up $200,000. But Daniel Sherwood, president of 3Prong Power of Berkeley, says that the new rules will bankrupt him and other similar companies because they can't make enough money from selling just ten conversions to finance the tests. "It effectively adds $20,000 to the cost of each of those first ten conversions," he said.

Currently, 3 Prong Power sells conversions, including installation, for about $6,700. As a result, if Sherwood's company tried to pass the $20,000 emissions tests costs on to his customers, no one would buy them. After the conversion, a Prius becomes an electric-only vehicle when driving around town and can get more than 100 miles per gallon, thereby significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Sherwood wants the air board to change the rules to allow small companies to sell up to 100 kits before having to undergo the expensive tests. That way, the cost of the tests will be about $2,000 per conversion - still a high price, but possibly doable. "CARB should be supporting California's plug-in hybrid conversion companies, not squashing us," he said.

The hearing begins at 9 a.m., Thursday, May 28 at the California Air Resources Board, 1001 I Street, 2nd Floor, Byron Sher Auditorium, Sacramento.