With environmental issues in mind, better fuel economy and reduced emissions have long since been a priority for the automotive industry, writes Matthew Beecham. New glass technologies are being developed and existing technologies adapted to help the industry meet these challenges.

For over a year, The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has been working on a regulation, (known as the “Cool Cars Regulation”) to reduce the amount of heat entering a vehicle from the sun by mandating solar reflective glass.  Last June, CARB voted to adopt a regulation that will require new cars sold in California, starting in 2012, to have windows that reflect or absorb the sun’s heat-producing rays.

The regulation is designed to help keep cars cooler, increase their fuel efficiency and reduce global warming pollution, according to CARB.

CARB estimates that cooler cars mean less air conditioning thereby increasing fuel efficiency and preventing about 700,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere in 2020 – roughly the equivalent of taking 140,000 cars off the road for a year.

Despite the apparent environmental benefits, concerns about the regulation have been expressed by a number of different industry groups.  Their fears concerned, amongst other things, electromagnetic interference.

In a dramatic u-turn, CARB recently announced that it would not enact these regulations based on concerns from stakeholders that they might impact electronic device performance.

In a statement, CARB said:  “After listening to this input and accounting for the legal deadline to finalise the rule, we are announcing that the AB32 “cool cars” rulemaking will cease.  Instead, the Board will pursue a performance-based approach as part of its vehicle climate change programme to reduce CO2 from air conditioning and provide cooler car interiors for California motorists.”

Among those companies closely involved in contributing and shaping the regulation is Solutia Inc.  Wing Kwang, global automotive business director, Solutia Inc, told just-auto: “While the California Air Resource Board’s proposed Cool Cars Regulation has been suspended, we are glad that it has not been scrapped altogether, but rather be incorporated, with a performance-based approach to cooling vehicle interiors, into the next iteration of the light-duty motor vehicle greenhouse gas regulations for 2017 and later model years. While the performance-based approach will not be confined to glazing, as the original regulation, we believe that advanced solar glazing will provide automotive engineers with cost effective solutions for reducing heat build-up in vehicles – and therefore reducing CO2 emissions and improving fuel efficiency.”