Autobloggreen recently got its paws on a presentation (PDF, read the whole thing) from the California Air Resource Board’s public “cool cars workshop.” And let’s just say the thing exudes the kind of bureaucratic overreach heretofore only imagined by folks sporting the latest in tinfoil chapeau. Here’s the logic: cars that get hot when they sit require greater air conditioning, which increases fuel consumption and (tada!) air pollution. And since architectural surface coatings are 25-35 percent reflective, there’s no reason not to require similar levels from auto paint, right? Skyscrapers, cars; potato, potahto. CARB will require vehicle surfaces to reflect at least 20 percent of solar energy by 2012, a figure that no black auto paint can currently achieve. One third of OEM palettes must meet the 20 percent mark by then, and all OEM paints must meet the goal by 2016. Oh, yes, and by 2016 even collision repair shops have to use the special paint. The only mitigation for these rules are if you sufficiently increase the Rd factor of your cars windshield glazing. And just to keep a song in your heart, “other compliance options are under investigation.”
The benefits? About .8 million metric tons less CO2 released per year. At an estimated OEM cost of between $39 and $128 per vehicle. But the real price is paid by the consumer, who will not only shoulder the OEM cost increase but will also see repair costs increase while losing the freedom to buy a car in their preferred color. Reducing cooling emissions is one thing in a skyscraper, where a one-time glazing investment can greatly reduce both the cost and environmental impact of cooling. But for government to transfer architectural regulations wholesale to the automotive sector betrays both a lack of perspective and an attitude of regulation-at-all-costs. Given the myriad improvements to efficiency and emissions that continue to occur in the automotive sector, regulating car color comes across as nothing more than an exercise in bureaucratic power for its own sake. And it hastens a world where cars no longer reflect the diversity of our culture and aspirations. Or are we supposed to be happy that CARB didn’t mandate one single acceptable color?