‘Cool’ Rule For Car Window Glazing Scrapped

Sacramento (March 30, 2010)

sacramento-bee

March 30, 2010

California's "cool cars" rule, so controversial it prompted the firing of a top state official three years ago, is being sent back to the shop.

The California Air Resources Board has scrapped the requirement that windows on new cars be coated with a special glazing that would cool the interiors. Cooler cars use less air conditioning, the theory goes, reducing fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions.

The ARB relented after facing criticism that the glazing would interfere with cell-phone, GPS and other signals. "Stakeholders raised several new issues involving performance of electronic devices as they may affect public safety," said ARB Executive Officer James Goldstene in a press release.

Instead, the ARB will implement a "performance-based" rule. Carmakers will still have to meet certain goals to cool interiors but will be free to meet those goals in whatever way they want.

"There are a range of solutions out there," said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the air board.

Environmentalists had applauded the glazing rule but said they're satisfied that ARB is still committed to cooling car interiors.

"I don't see it as a retreat," said lobbyist Bonnie Holmes-Gen of the American Lung Association of California. "They added more flexibility. The important goal is to get these requirements in place to get car companies to reduce greenhouse gases."

The plan was supposed to take effect in 2012. Instead, the "cool cars" initiative is being rolled into a multipronged emission-reduction effort that will take effect in 2017, Young said.

The "cool cars" plan had plenty of critics. Automakers and others complained that the glazing posed serious problems with wireless signals.

The glazing, for instance, could have interfered with attempts to monitor parolees' ankle bracelets, they said. Other potential problem areas included satellite radio, GPS, cell phones and the FasTrak "toll tags" that allow motorists to zip through Bay Area toll booths.

"There is no dispute that metal oxide reflective glass reduces wireless signal strength," said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in a letter to the ARB last summer.

The "cool cars" idea generated headlines in 2007. Robert Sawyer, then chairman of the air board, was fired by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger after trying to accelerate the program, among other things. The ARB originally wanted to impose "cool paint" standards as well. That plan was scrubbed after the board decided it was too costly.