General Motors Seeks To Invalidate Electric Car Rule

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 23 — The General Motors Corporation filed suit today seeking to invalidate a new California rule that would require automobile manufacturers to sell thousands of electric cars in the state each year starting in 2003.

The company contends that the rule violates the state laws requiring regulations to be reasonable and prudent. General Motors, and the automobile industry in general, say that battery-powered cars are impractical and that the rule will bring about a minuscule reduction in air pollution at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The lawsuit, filed in state court in Contra Costa County, just east of San Francisco, said that to meet the requirements auto companies would have to produce thousands of small electric vehicles resembling golf carts that could travel on public roads and cause safety problems.

The California Air Resources Board has relaxed its requirements for pollution-free cars several times over the last decade. Last month it approved its latest plan, which would require that 2 percent of the cars sold by major manufacturers in 2003 have no tailpipe emissions, a standard that could be met only by battery-powered cars. Another 8 percent would have to have extremely low emissions. The plan would require the companies to sell 4,650 battery-powered vehicles in 2003, down from 22,000 under a previous plan.

The California regulations are expected to be adopted by New York, Massachusetts and Vermont. That could roughly double the number of electric vehicles required.

General Motors said the plan was still impractical and asked the board for a reconsideration. The board rejected that request on Thursday, prompting the company and some of its California dealers to sue.

Alan Lloyd, the board’s chairman, said he was “very disappointed that General Motors has chosen to put its future in the hands of its lawyers rather than in the hands of its outstanding engineers.”

Roland Hwang of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said the fact that other auto companies had not joined the lawsuit undercut General Motors’ position that the program was a problem. The Ford Motor Company has said that it expects to be able to meet the goals in the first few years.

G.M. said the company was committed to reducing emissions, but not the way California wanted.

Gloria Bergquist, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, said the trade group and its members, which include almost all the major car companies, were asked to join the suit but could not reach a consensus.

“It doesn’t mean we like the mandate any better than G.M.,” Ms. Bergquist said.

Author: Andrew Pollack

News Service: New York Times


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