Cool Cars Regulation Adopted in California

On June 25, The California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the “Cool Cars” regulation, requiring new cars and light trucks sold in that state to be equipped with heat reducing window glass as a means of lower CO2 emissions.

The new regulation, which takes effect in 2012, will require vehicles to be equipped with specially treated glass to prevent 45% of the sun’s radiant energy from entering the vehicle’s interior. In 2016, the level of heat resistance will increase to 60%. CARB estimates the average, per-vehicle cost to automakers to be $111 initially and to rise to $215 per vehicle when the 2016 standard take effect. Based on estimated fuel savings, the agency predicts it may take between 5 – 12 years for consumers to recoup the additional cost.

To achieve the required heat reduction, vehicle glass will be coated with metal oxide which will reflect the sun’s radiant heat. By lowering the ambient temperature of the passenger cabin, drivers will be able to use their air conditioning less.

Proponents of the new regulation argue that it will reduce CO2 emissions by some 700,000 metric tons by 2020. That’s the equivalent of removing about 140,000 vehicles from the roads for an entire year.

CARB chairwoman Mary D. Nichols says, “This is a common-sense and cost-effective measure that will help cool the cars we drive and fight global warming.” Nichols contends the new regulation “Represents the kind of innovative thinking we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles and steer our economy toward a low-carbon future.”

The California Manufacturers and Technology Association, the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association and Garmin International have objected to the “Cool Cars” regulation, claiming that more time is needed to study the effects that the mandated window glazing will have on electronic devices including cell phones, Lojack® and OnStar™ security systems, radios, garage door openers, and satellite navigation systems.

Chrysler Group has said that the flexible, plastic windows used in its soft-top convertible Jeep Wrangler cannot meet the standards set by the regulation and warns that it may be forced to discontinue sales of that model in California.

Other automakers have expressed similar concerns. Toyota previously tested the feasibility of using heat reflective glass in its vehicles in the early 1990s but abandoned the idea based on the adverse effects metal glazed glass had on radio wave transmissions. Honda has also characterized the new “Cool Car” standards as “simply not feasible.”

Some automakers, led by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, have proposed a different approach which would involve the use of materials that would absorb rather than reflect solar heat, but CARB has summarily rejected such proposals.

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