Now for a quick update on three government-related stories that we’ve been following:
- First off, Congress approved a bill that will allow three-wheeled vehicles to qualify for U.S. Department of Energy funding. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill that will pave the way for unorthodox car manufacturers like Aptera to get government funds, but there are questions of how well the three-wheel platform will hold up in crash tests. Qualifying vehicles will have to seat at least two adults and return a minimum of 75 mpg; the DOE will examine applicants case-by-case.
- The U.S. Senate also restored $187 million in funding for hydrogen-vehicle research in an appropriations bill. DOE Secretary Steven Chu made a point of slashing the funding from the department’s budget request, largely for the same reasons that many of us remain skeptical of mass-marketed hydrogen vehicles. Congress didn’t see it that way, though, and the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee put the funding back in. Obama is expected to sign the bill.
- Finally, the California Air Resources Board gave Chrysler a reprieve for the Jeep Wrangler. Chrysler had feared that the board’s new “cool car” window regulation would prevent it from selling the soft-top Wrangler in California. The rule states that by 2012, all vehicles must have a reflective glazing that prevents 45% of the sun’s energy from entering the interior. The Wrangler with its soft-sided plastic windows couldn’t meet the regulation and California will exempt it. Doubts about glazing remain, as automakers think the reflective material can interfere with cell phone and GPS signals.