Survey: Californians warming to clean cars | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Survey: Californians warming to clean cars

Gregory Crofton

Californians say they will be more conscious of air quality and fuel economy when the go to buy or lease their next car, according to a recent statewide survey.

Between 2000 and 2004 surveys by the Public Policy Institute of California show the number of residents in the Central Valley who believe air pollution is a big problem has increased from 28 to 47 percent. El Dorado County is considered part of the Central Valley.

More than 55 percent of 2,500 residents surveyed throughout the state by phone believe air pollution is “somewhat” of a threat to their health. Nearly two out of three residents, 66 percent, said they would consider buying or leasing a hybrid gas and electric vehicle, 32 percent answered they would not and 2 percent said they didn’t know.

According to hybridcars.com, a 2003 Honda Civic burns about 370 gallons of gas a year, while a hybrid version of the same car uses 263 gallons. The amount of emissions produced by a hybrid Civic is also less. It emits 80 pounds of carbon monoxide annually versus the 135 pounds emitted by a regular Civic.

“Air quality in the state actually has gotten better, but at the same time we’ve been more aggressive about informing the public of the problem,” said Jerry Martin, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board. “People are really becoming aware of the consequences of poor air quality, such as a high childhood asthma rate.”

El Dorado County directly addressed air quality issues about six years ago when it started installing electric car charging stations throughout the county, said Jon Morgan, director of the El Dorado County Environmental Management Department. But the 10 stations that went in – which cost about $100,000 total – and are still operating haven’t been used much.

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“The electrics just didn’t work out,” Morgan said. “The technology was limited to 100 miles. Being a rural county, we really need 200 miles.”

It didn’t help when electric auto manufacturers took some cars leased to the county off the market two years ago.

“We hoped the demand would be there,” Morgan said. “It just wasn’t. It all came to a screeching halt when they stopped producing them.”

The county has since purchased a hybrid car for $32,000 that performs well, getting about 60 miles per gallon. County employees use it to commute to Sacramento, Morgan said.

The Public Policy Institute of California, established in 1994, is a nonprofit organization that provides nonpartisan research. The institute was established with an endowment from William Hewlett.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com