But, what will it take in practice to achieve this goal? What type of new-car miles per gallon will be required, and what ratio of new cars to existing cars? Put more simply, how many new cars per year must be sold, and what will their mpg be? I put some thought into this, along with my trusty spreadsheet. If others see where this is in error, please leave a comment and correct me.
Another factor is how many older cars are retired each year, and what is the average mpg for those retired cars?
We start with the basics, how many cars are on the road in California. This seems like a zillion, but it really is about 30 million in 2008. Roughly 8 cars for every 10 Californians. Gasoline production and consumption is about 42 million gallons per day in 2008, and at 12,000 miles driven per year per car, that works out to about 22 miles per gallon on average. Hybrid-type cars get a lot better than that, but some older cars are getting around 16. For 1990, California gasoline demand was approximately 29 million gallons per day.
If population grows at around 2 percent per year, and the cars/person ratio holds, then we will have roughly 38 million cars on the road in 2020. If each car continues to drive an average of 12,000 miles per year in 2020, then the fleet of cars must achieve an average of 42 mpg by 2020 to reduce gasoline consumption back to 1990 levels. Is this even possible? What is required?
If the state adds new cars at the rate of 10 percent per year of total cars on the road, and retires roughly 7 percent of the cars each year, this could work. But, the average mpg of all new cars sold must be 42 mpg from now until 2020. Is that possible? Even if cars are offered for sale with that mpg, will consumers buy them?
Another part of AB 32 is the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which requires transportation fuels to include 10 percent renewable fuel -- bio-fuel. The above analysis with 42 mpg average for new cars includes the 10 percent bio-fuel.
There are a lot of SUVs sold in California, or at least, there were before June 2008 when gasoline prices spiked then a few months later the economic crisis struck and nobody is buying cars, or at least it seems that way. I suspect that few of the SUV's will achieve 42 mpg off the showroom floor, so there had better be a lot of hybrids sold at 50 to 75 mpg to make up the difference. In reality, the only 2009 cars that achieve 42 mpg or better are the Honda Civic, Volkswagen Jetta, and Toyota Prius.
For reference, here is a list of some SUV offerings for the 2009 model year, with city/highway mpg:
Ford Escape Hybrid FWD automatic 34/31 (city/highway mpg)
Mazda Tribute Hybrid 2WD automatic 34/31
Mercury Mariner Hybrid FWD automatic 34/31
Jeep Compass 2WD manual 23/28
Jeep Compass 4WD manual 23/28
Jeep Patriot 2WD manual 23/28
Jeep Patriot 4WD manual 23/28
In short, it appears that there is no way that the population can grow 2 percent per year, people can drive 12,000 miles per year, purchase 10 percent new cars every year, retire 7 percent of the vehicle fleet each year, and meet the AB 32 goal of 1990 fuel consumption by 2020. No way, at least that is how it appears to me.
Now, to put on my optimist's hat: Some gas-sipping vehicles are about to be introduced. If AFSTrinity can get moving, their cars and SUVs will achieve better than 100 mpg, but most of that is due to electric power from plug-in hybrid. The Chinese-built BYD plug-in hybrid car is supposed to get better than 170 miles per battery charge, which will effectively mean zero gasoline usage for many months for the average driver. But, these cars are not yet in showroom floors.
I plan to analyze other parts of AB 32 in the next few days and weeks. So far, the gasoline plan looks doomed. I wonder if there is a Plan B?
Roger E. Sowell, Esq. may be contacted via his website here.