Who's Killing the Plug-in Hybrid?

California Air Resources Board is expected to adopt strict new regulations based on the theory that the innovative plug-in hybrid conversions may be bad for the environment.

Published: 19-Jan-2009

Daniel Sherwood and Paul Guzyk never dreamed they would be accused of harming the planet. After all, the primary goal of their Berkeley startup company, 3Prong Power, is to curb greenhouse gas emissions. They convert Toyota Prius hybrids into mostly electric vehicles that get 100 to 150 miles per gallon. But a powerful state agency is poised to put 3Prong Power out of business and deal a severe blow to a promising new industry.

Next week, the California Air Resources Board is expected to adopt strict new regulations based on the theory that the innovative technology sold by 3Prong Power and other companies may be bad for the environment. Sherwood and Guzyk say that if the board adopts the new rules at its January 22 and 23 meeting, it likely will force them to shutter their business, which just had its grand opening last month at Green Motors on San Pablo Avenue.

In addition, proponents of the nascent plug-in hybrid industry say the air resources board also may snuff out a key component of what environmentalists believe will be the next generation of eco-friendly cars, thereby hampering our ability to wean ourselves from foreign oil, avoid petroleum wars in the Middle East, and slow the potentially devastating effects of global warming. "It's simply too early for government regulation of plug-in hybrids," said Felix Kramer, a leader of CalCars.org, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit that has led the fight for plug-in vehicles. "Acting too soon will shut off innovation and will kill companies that are just getting started."

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