Friday, July 24, 2009

Guess what CA wanted to regulate about your car?

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, ...Image via Wikipedia

Guess what regulation California wants to pass regarding your car?

A regulation concerning PAINT.

That's right, a proposed legislation will regulate what kind of paint / color you can get in California.

WHY?!?! You ask.

Well, black or dark color car gets hotter in the sun, right? So if you require cars to have lighter colors, you'll use the AC less, and thus, improve mileage, and reduce global warming, right? It sounds like someone from the Sierra Club or Union of Concerned Scienetists would propose: it sounds good, but it's unscientific.

So is the color black doomed as a car paint choice? Not quite.

Now you're going to say, but that made sense to me! But wait!

The problem is... Most of the heat in the cabin came through the glass, not the skin of the car covered by paint. Just think about it. The glass area is right at the cabin, while the area with paint is over the area mostly UNrelated to the cabin.

So how much gas can this idea save? About 10 gallons per car PER YEAR, and this would add over $50 to cost of the car, by most estimates. Not to mention this will severely limit your car's paint choice (black is out, closest is a very dark brown).

It took a study from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) to prove that this idea is a non-starter and that California Air Resources Board (CARB) should axe the idea, and CARB did.

Now CARB is back with another idea: requring glass that reflects a LOT MORE light than the current safety glass, which reflects a mere 6%. According to the proposal, the new windshield must reflect 30% of light (which matches current law of 70% light pass-thru). Side, rear, and sunroofs require even MORE reflectivity.

Please note that the regulations say REFLECT, not absorb. Which means tint is NOT acceptable.

In fact, the reflectivity requirement will jump to 45% by 2014, though in all honesty, it's for new cars only.

The problem is so far, only one company had came up with a new glass formulation that meets the 30% reflectivity... and it's EXPENSIVE, as it involves a nanolayer of silver between current safety glass, among other things. It does not affect visibility.

And what's more, the layer of silver blocks radio signals due to the Faraday effect (any one know what a Faraday cage is?) Thus, radar detectors and internal GPS receivers and anything else that receive radio signals inside the cabin will have problems (yes, even your cellphones, though that can be fixed by special antennas). Oh, and those toll transponders (Fastrak in Northern CA) that used to go inside your car... Now they have to go OUTSIDE.

As you can guess, this will severely affect the cost of a car, adding a few hundred, due to the exclusivity of this glass formula, and the added cost of the glass. In other words, CARB will grant monopoly to this glass maker, if this proposal passes. Yet the gain in energy savings is still debatable.

Not to mention this idea is pointless in the northern states. In the sunbelt, absolutely. But northern states? Nah.

Yet you know everybody follows CA when it comes to emission and energy stuff.

But there are HUGE implications when it comes to completely changing the formula of autoglass that is in use for the past several decades. I am sure it'll pass visibility and crashability, but what about replacement cost, widespread availability of such glass at places OTHER than the dealer, not to mention effects on interior electronics, effect on other drivers (increased reflectivity will affect other driver's visibility THROUGH your vehicle, say into the traffic beyond), and so on?

Then there are additional problems. If an owner is forced to replace these uber-glass with regular glass, maybe due to breakage, lack of parts, and so on, is the car still "legal"? Can it be registered next year like smog test? Will CA charge a "mitigation fee" to register out-of-state vehicles like it current does with cars that doesn't meet CA emissions? Do owners of such vehicles get refund for electronics that no longer work inside, or get a stipend to install conduit antennas to keep these electronics working?

While the intent is good, there are always unintended consequences. I am just not too certain if the consequences of this proposal has been fully realized yet.

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