Utah clean air advocates say Trump’s plan to weaken pollution standards is ‘unthinkable’

Photo: (Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Southbound traffic on I-15 approaching Pleasant Grove on Wednesday Aug. 28, 2019.

 · Published: August 28
Updated: August 29, 2019

A bipartisan pair of Utah lawmakers on Wednesday decried a Trump administration proposal to weaken the nation’s car-emissions standards, a change the two said their inversion-plagued state can ill afford.

Utah Reps. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, and Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, called on the state’s congressional leaders — specifically Sen. Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams — to oppose rolling back the pollution rules and to fight for polices that will enhance air quality.

“I have had patients who have beaten radiation and chemotherapy and even beaten cancer, but they can’t beat our air pollution,” Harrison, a physician, said during the Capitol news conference.

Earlier this year, the American Lung Association ranked Salt Lake City the nation’s 14th most polluted city for ozone; Harrison said the state’s poor air quality has forced some of her patients to stay indoors and others to leave Utah altogether.

Trump’s move to relax the Obama-era fuel efficiency standards would threaten the progress Utah has made on tailpipe emissions and potentially hinder economic development related to clean-car technology, said Harrison and Handy, co-chairs of the Clean Air Caucus.

Vehicle exhaust accounts for about half the Wasatch Front’s air pollution, sickening and even killing Utah residents, research suggests.

Handy said the state has been hard at work to address the problem by bringing cleaner Tier 3 fuel to Utah’s gas stations. Gov. Gary Herbert has called on local refiners to speed up adoption of the new standards, and the Legislature has approved spending more than $2 million in tax breaks to spur the conversion.

“We want cleaner cars. We want alternative vehicles. … We need to be driving less,” Handy said. “And we all need to be smarter about the technologies that we use to keep our air clean.”

Ben Abbott, an assistant professor of ecosystem ecology at Brigham Young University, said a recent study showed that air pollution kills more people than smoking. And while people pay special attention to “sensitive groups” particularly impacted by poor quality, everyone is affected at some level, he said.

“Any exposure to air pollution degrades our health,” he warned.

The risks associated with bad air range from the obvious — breathing problems — to nervous and reproductive system issues and depression, Abbott said.

Vehicle manufactures have listened to these air quality concerns and shown a commitment to reducing emissions in accordance with the Obama administration’s standards, said Tammie Bostick, executive director of the Utah Clean Cities Coalition.

“To propose a rollback of emissions standards is simply unthinkable and hopefully impossible at this point,” Bostick said.

The existing fuel efficiency standards will save the average Utah household $3,050 in gas costs by 2030, money that would be plowed back into the local economy to create an estimated 4,700 new jobs, the Union of Concerned Scientists has predicted.

While the oil industry supports Trump’s rollback plan, automakers have said it goes too far. Four car manufacturers — Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen of America, Honda and BMW — earlier this year sided against Trump and entered into a pact with California to adhere to rules only slightly less restrictive than the Obama standards. Blindsided by the deal, the White House this month was scrambling to prevent more defections by car manufacturers, who are concerned that different fuel efficiency standards would bifurcate the auto market, The New York Times reported.

In response to the morning news conference, Romney’s office sent a statement.

“I support greater efficiency standards in cars, trucks, and factories to reduce energy consumption and pollution,” the senator said in the statement. “I support the utilization of all our energy resources including gas, coal, wind, nuclear, geothermal, hydro, and solar.”

When asked for a comment, McAdams’ spokeswoman referred to a Salt Lake Tribune op-ed penned in April 2018 by the Democratic congressman supporting Obama’s fuel efficiency standards and calling on former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt to abandon the proposed rollback.

“At a time when we’ve made great bipartisan progress, with all levels of local, state and federal government working cooperatively towards our clean air goals, we urge Pruitt to reconsider his position,” McAdams, who was Salt Lake County’s mayor at the time, wrote with several council members and city mayors. “Utahns’ health, our economy and our environment are at stake.”

Coalition opposes proposal to rollback clean air standards for vehicles

POSTED 12:25 PM, AUGUST 28, 2019, BY UPDATED AT 12:42PM, AUGUST 28, 2019


SALT LAKE CITY — Several local leaders spoke at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to not go through with the proposed rollback of America’s clean car standards.

State Representative Stephen Handy, R-Layton, Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, Tammie Bostick of Utah Clean Cities Coalition and Assistant Professor Ben Abbott of Brigham Young University spoke at the event.

All are hoping to encourage Senator Mitt Romney and Representative Ben McAdams to continue supporting clean air initiatives.

State Representative Steve Handy said the EPA has proposed a rollback that would reduce the clean fuel car standards.

“We know that 50 percent of our emissions problems or pollution problems come from tailpipes, so it would be really important to have high standards,” Handy said.

He also said it’s important for the state of Utah to direct its own environment and not for Washington to dictate what we do, saying one standard doesn’t fit every state.

“Give states, allow states the flexibility, and particularly in Utah where we’re moving to tier three gasoline hopefully next year, this isn’t the time to be messing with car standards,” Handy said.

Tammie Bostick with the Utah Clean Cities Coalition says most of our manufacturers have committed to moving forward with the clean car standard and moving that back would be in opposition to where we are as a country.

“I really think that the pushback is going to be very strong, and we strongly support keeping the clean car standard in place and moving forward with it,” Bostick said.

The Utah Clean Cities Coalition said the clean car standards that were put in place in 2012 have been highly successful in protecting the health of families while also saving money at the pump – and they hope the EPA will continue going in that direction.

Lawmakers, scientists ask president not to rollback emissions standards

Scientists and Utah lawmakers are demanding President Trump keep the current vehicle fuel efficiency standards he may roll back. Photo: Kelli Pierce

SALT LAKE CITY — A bipartisan group of Utah lawmakers joined scientists at the Utah State Capitol to urge President Trump to keep current federal vehicle emissions standards.

Environmental Protection Agency rules require all new cars and trucks sold in the United States to get 54.5 miles to the gallon by 2025.

Some car companies and consumer groups have opposed the mandates. They argue it will make cars too expensive or less safe, as manufacturers are forced to use lighter or more costly materials.

But 50% of the state’s air pollution comes from cars and truck fleets, and that worried participants at today’s event like Tammie Bostick with Utah Clean Cities.

“It’s so important that we have low emissions at the tailpipe. Without that, our air quality as our economy grows, as our population grows, it’s just going to be a multiplier effect,” Bostick says.

Others, like Layton Republican Representative Steve Handy, think the federal government is overstepping its authority by telling Utah what to do.

“We get that air moves around. But we are emitting our own air pollution here in the state of Utah. Don’t take away our authority to regulate ourselves,” Handy says.

It’s unclear how far car emissions standards could be rolled back

A federal rollback of clean car standards? Why some Utah leaders say no

Tougher standards would cut pollution, save lives

Haze hangs over the Salt Lake Valley on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.
Haze hangs over the Salt Lake Valley on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.
 Kristin Murphy

SALT LAKE CITY — Two of the leaders of the Utah Legislature’s bipartisan Clean Air Caucus said the Trump administration’s plan to roll back clean car standards set under the previous administration will be costly for Utah households on three fronts: more unhealthy air pollution, less savings at the pump and job losses.

In a press conference Wednesday at the state Capitol, Rep. Steve Handy, R-Layton, and Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, called on Utah’s congressional delegation and other elected leaders to urge retention of the toughest fuel economy standards in U.S. history.

“It is the wrong direction for Utah,” according to Harrison, who as a practicing anesthesiologist said she has had to cancel procedures due to a patient’s unhealthy status because of asthma complications.

While she has seen patients who have beat radiation, chemotherapy and even cancer, she’s seen those who “can’t beat air pollution.”

Both Harrison and Handy were joined by Ben Abbott, an assistant professor of ecosystem ecology at Brigham Young University, and Tammie Bostick, executive director of the Utah Clean Cities Coalition, in a plea to keep the standards in place.

The 2012 rule finalized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tightens emissions standards by 3.5% each year into 2025 and sets a fleet average of 54.5 miles per gallon in passenger fuel economy standards by 2025.

Not all vehicles would have to meet that fuel efficiency standard. Instead, automobile manufacturers could sell under performing cars and make up for that with models that outperform that standard.

The EPA is now proposing to freeze the fuel efficiency standard at 2020 levels in a submission it made to the White House in August, keeping it at 37 miles per gallon for passenger cars and light trucks for models 2021 through 2026.

In a revision most likely to provoke a lawsuit from California and other opponents, the Trump administration also wants to strip that state’s ability to set its own standards.

The EPA, in an analysis by Car and Driver, conceded its revised proposal would result in a 5% increase in carbon dioxide emissions through 2026 and 9% increase in carbon dioxide emissions through 2035, but just a 1% increase in smog-forming emissions during the same time period.

Ben Abbott, assistant professor of ecosystem ecology at BYU, speaks during a press conference in opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rollback of America’s clean car standards at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.
Ben Abbott, assistant professor of ecosystem ecology at BYU, speaks during a press conference in opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rollback of America’s clean car standards at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.
 Kristin Murphy

Abbott said there is “no safe level” of pollution, pointing to recent research that shows air pollution in Utah results in more deaths than vehicle accidents.

While there are smog alerts for “sensitive” groups, Abbott insisted when it comes to pollution, “there is no such thing as an insensitive group.”

Bostick said to roll back the Obama standards is “unthinkable” especially for a state like Utah that has invested millions in clean air technology and research to curb its problem.

She added the Obama-era standards would have pumped an additional 4,700 jobs into Utah through advancements in automotive technology and other related industries.

The Trump administration said rolling back the clean car standard would save money for consumers and the industry, but 17 automobile manufacturers urged the administration to rethink its position and settle on something more “in the middle” between the two proposals.

Utah company Packsize demos ‘right-size’ packaging to DOE, sustainability leaders

Utah company Packsize demos ‘right-size’ packaging to DOE, sustainability leaders


SALT LAKE CITY — As e-commerce giants scramble to retreat from plastic packaging amid a torrent of reports highlighting environmental degradation related to the material, a local cardboard packaging innovator may be set to explode.

On Wednesday, officials from the U.S. Department of Energy and over 100 members of the agency’s Clean Cities Coalitions from around the country toured the world headquarters of Packsize on Salt Lake City’s west side.

Packsize is on the collective radars of many observers thanks to the accomplishments of founder and CEO Hanko Kiessner. The German-born entrepreneur, who adopted Utah as his home after falling in love with the state during an exchange student experience in the ’80s, has embraced the dual goals of offering a highly sustainable and earth-friendly product alongside a commitment to creating company facilities with a light-touch carbon footprint.

The 17-year-old company has innovated a system that employs artificial intelligence-driven software and a family of automated box-building machinery to allow customers to create exactly the right size box for any one, or group of, products for shipping. And do it very, very quickly.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and Utah Clean Cities tour Packsize in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, to learn how the company’s right-size, on-demand packaging systems are upping the sustainability game, especially in a retail world that is increasingly delivery-based.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and Utah Clean Cities tour Packsize in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, to learn how the company’s right-size, on-demand packaging systems are upping the sustainability game, especially in a retail world that is increasingly delivery-based.
 Steve Griffin

Kiessner noted e-commerce companies were trending away from cardboard, with about 30 percent of all shipments currently happening in plastic packaging, until a recent seismic shift that was seeded by the work of both scientists and journalists.

“It’s now universally understood and decided among the internet retailing industry that packaging has to fit,” Kiessner said. “And not only does it have to fit, but it needs to be made of the right materials.”

Kiessner said just a few years ago, before islands of plastic in the oceans and seemingly ubiquitous microplastic contamination was highlighted by the scientific community and, subsequently, media outlets, companies could rationalize the switch from paper to plastic. But, not any more.

“When the ocean plastic, microplastic topic wasn’t front and center, you could argue maybe that was a tradeoff decision,” Kiessner said. “Today, we know that that trend has to be completely reversed. We have to get out of plastics again, out of plastic mailers.

“They’re not recyclable, they’re not decomposable, we’re finding microplastics in the polar caps, in sea life, and almost everywhere. Next to global warming, this could be another major disaster.”

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and Utah Clean Cities tour Packsize in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, to learn how the company’s right-size, on-demand packaging systems are upping the sustainability game, especially in a retail world that is increasingly delivery-based.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and Utah Clean Cities tour Packsize in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, to learn how the company’s right-size, on-demand packaging systems are upping the sustainability game, especially in a retail world that is increasingly delivery-based.
 Steve Griffin

Packsize boxes are made with the company’s “z-fold” corrugated cardboard, which Kiessner said is sourced from sustainably managed forests and the fibers can be recycled up to 12 times. At the end of that life cycle, the product is entirely biodegradable, but can also be incinerated as an energy-producing source.

How big a deal is right-sizing packaging for the e-commerce world? Kiessner said on an annual basis, if the global shipping market only shipped in appropriately-sized packages, it would save 98 million trees, reduce truck hauling by 24 million loads, and save 1.7 billion gallons of diesel. He said a typical e-commerce package is 40 percent larger than it needs to be.

On arrival at Packsize’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, a notable visual characteristic is the multiple rows of electric vehicle charging stations in front of the building. Kiessner said the array, installed in late 2017, includes 51 standard charging stations and 2 D.C. fast-chargers. The project, which included support from the DOE, Rocky Mountain Power, Utah Clean Cities and others, is the largest of its kind in the state.

Kiessner said the efforts to be a force for change track back to his decision just a few years ago to keep the company in Utah. It was one he said challenged him at multiple levels, particularly after developing asthma due to local air quality issues.

“Air pollution was the only thing between us and the perfect place,” Kiessner said. “We were this close to moving out of the valley … moving out of the state. We decided to move into this building, because we understood at the time there is a solution to the problem that depends only on our own will, and leadership, to activate the method.”

Kiessner and Packsize have embraced that will, adding further incentives to the free-to-employees charging stations by adding a financial incentive for electric vehicle purchases of almost $1,000 per year, as well as converting environmental systems to a high-efficiency heat pump system.

Tammie Bostick, executive director of Utah Clean Cities, said her organization was hosting a three-day event to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Clean Cities Coalition program. She noted her organization, under the umbrella of the DOE, was working to help more Utah businesses follow the path Packsize has chosen to help mitigate the state’s leading cause of air pollution issues — combustion engine vehicles.

“This is an effort Clean Cities supported … and we’re working to build more workplace charging locations in the state,” Bostick said. “It’s the kind of work we’re celebrating with our 25th anniversary gathering in Salt Lake City.”

Correction: An earlier version misspelled the the last name of Packsize CEO Hanko Kiessner as Keisnner.

Ground broken for Depot District Clean Fuels Tech Center


By Utah Clean Cities- December 12, 2018

Utah Transit Authority (UTA) officials, joined by a host of Utah dignitaries, broke ground on the Depot District Clean Fuels Technology Center on Monday, October 22, 2018 at UTA’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This long-awaited project will replace UTA’s outdated Central Bus Garage which is fast becoming obsolete. In its stead, UTA will repurpose a century-old railroad site, once used as Denver & Rio Grande’s locomotive shop, into a state-of-the-art maintenance and fueling facility designed to accommodate today’s clean air transit vehicles’ daily duty cycles and maintenance requirements. The structure is expected to be complete by 2021.

The Depot will free up the existing Central Bus Garage for a mixed-use Transit Oriented Development (TOD), provide a LEED-certified facility to charge electric buses, expand service by housin gmore buses, and create long and short-term jobs. The Tech Center has been identified by both the Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC) and UTA as a critical need to significantly expand public transportation services in Salt Lake and Davis counties.

By expanding UTA’s fleet, more locally obtainable alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas (CNG) and electric power will not only create jobs and spur economic development in the Depot District but improve regional air quality and promote public health as well. This 9-acre redevelopment project is anticipated to bring hundreds of new apartments, shops, offices, museums, green space and a pubic market to an economically challenged neighborhood.

Utah Clean Cities facilitated the funding of UTA’s first advanced-fueled natural gas buses;replacing old emission-heavy diesel buses.  Utah Clean Cities has watched UTA’s leadership and stewardship of those first buses grow into an award-winning, fuel-diverse Green Fleet program. Now this innovative transit leader is taking the next step in to the future with electrified bus transportation and is exploring the addition of renewal natural gas, RNG, to their CNG buses. This vital partnership will continue to grow with the Depot District Clean Fuels Technology Center, and other Utah Clean Cities Smart Mobility projects around the Salt Lake Valley.

REVIEW: Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid, “A plug-in without the compromise”

REVIEW: Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid, “A plug-in without the compromise”
The Clarity PHEV is a fantastic choice for anyone who wants an electric vehicle, but who also needs the flexibility of being able to take long trips when needed.

By Louisiana Clean Fuels – July 9, 2018

A plug-in vehicle without compromise?

I bought my 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid in February 2018 (just over five months ago as I write this), and I have already racked up over 10k miles on my odometer. I drive a lot. To jump right in, why did I buy a new car in the first place – and why a Honda Clarity PHEV?

Towards the end of my previous car’s time with me, it leaked ~0.5 L of oil per week. So, clearly, it was pretty much kaput. Thus began my shockingly short search for a new vehicle. I knew that I wanted something that would be fuel efficient and reliable, preferably with some electric range. My dream car is a Tesla Model 3, but given how unreliable my current car had become, I wasn’t exactly able to wait on the long list of people in line for one.

Despite working in the alt-fuels world, I hadn’t heard of the Honda Clarity until one Fateful Friday (like a Manic Monday, but less catchy). I was planning on making my new car decision within the week that followed my discovery of the Clarity and luckily, a local dealership had a Clarity in stock – they jumped at the chance to let me test drive the car


First Experience:


From the moment I saw the car, I was intrigued. I’m used to the overtly futuristic look of other mainstream hybrids (I’m looking at you, Prius), and though Honda has definitely made some aesthetically divisive design decisions, the Clarity has a significantly lower shock-factor than the Prius. The most notable design choice is the shrouded rear tires, which help the Clarity slip through the air more effortlessly. Largely, the exterior of the Clarity fits in quite nicely with the design of newer Honda Accords and Civics.

As an interesting note, a couple of reviews I’ve come across online have referred to the Clarity as the ugliest car of the year, which I rather enjoy. This is in pretty stark contrast to all the times I’ve been stopped at my local car chargers by strangers who wanted to know more about EVs and my car in particular, all of them raving about how nice of a car it is. So, “divisive” is probably an appropriate way to describe the design of the Clarity.


Sitting in the car, it feels wonderfully familiar to the “conventional” vehicles I’ve driven all my life (except this time, the car isn’t as old as I am . . . ). The two notable differences inside the vehicle are the paddle selectors on the steering column (used to control the strength of its regenerative braking) and the gear selector – which is a row of push (and pull) buttons in lieu of a lever.

The interior of the car is comfortable and shockingly roomy. The gear selector is suspended on a bridge, which allows for a shelf underneath that houses two USB charging ports (one provides 1.5A and the other provides 1.0A) as well as the standard power socket that most cars have (there is a second power socket behind the center console for rear passengers). This shelf has become a fantastic place for my wallet, phone, and notebook during my daily commute.

The car comes in two trims: Base and Touring. The Touring trim only adds a few features, such as Honda Satellite Navigation (though Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available in the Base trim as well), full-leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel,  and power seats (with settings memorized based on key fob). Critically, there are no performance differences between the trims – the electric range, fuel economy, safety features, and engine/motor power of the two trims are identical.

First Drive:

I’ll admit that I was slightly perturbed by the process of turning the car on. Hitting the Start button results in the dash and touchscreen lighting up as well as a quiet boot-up sound, which I suspect was added to satisfy the part of my brain that expects to hear the engine turning over. While I have since come to appreciate this sound, all I could hear was a deafening silence when I turned the car on for the first time. Like a 90’s sitcom, I looked over to the salesman in the passenger seat with (what I assume was) a look of naïve stupor on my face and asked him if the car had turned on or not . . . it had, of course.

Having never driven a hybrid or electric vehicle before, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be lethargic like I’d expect from stories I’ve heard about hybrids, or would it be zippy like I’d expect from stories I’ve heard about EVs?

To my delight, the car proved to be pretty zippy! While the Clarity won’t push you back in your seat like a Tesla S will, it provides more than ample acceleration if you need it. Its Sport Mode significantly increases the responsiveness of the accelerator and, quite frankly, makes the Clarity an exciting vehicle to drive.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the paddle selectors for the regenerative braking. I found that the process of using them became second-nature very quickly and by the end of my short test drive I was using them without much active thought, which I consider to be a big win.

One of the qualities I care most about in a vehicle is visibility while driving, and this is a place where the Clarity excels (maybe that’s where the name comes from . . . ). While the rear window isn’t very big, the Clarity has a window through the trunk that adds a very valuable visibility patch.

The last major thing I noticed during my first test drive is the steering wheel itself. It may sound silly, but the steering wheel just feels solid. It has very little play in it and I find that it provides a really comforting feeling of confidence while driving that is hard to explain. It adds a sense of intentionality to any input when driving that I adore.

Performance Stats:

  • Engine: 1.5L In-Line Four-Cylinder
  • Valve-Train: 16 Valve DOHC VTEC
  • Horsepower: 212 HP combined between Electric Motor and Engine
  • Transmission: Continuously-Variable
  • Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined): 44/40/42
  • Electric Range: 47 miles
  • Electric MPGe: 110
  • Battery Size: 17kWh
  • Fuel Tank Size: 7 gallons
  • Charging Capability: Level 1 and Level 2 (32A; 6.6kW)

Price and Tax Credits:

  • Base Trim (starting at): $33,400
  • Touring Trim (starting at): $36,600
  • Federal Tax Credit*: $7,500
  • State Tax Credit: varies by state**
*At the time of writing, the Federal Electric Vehicle Tax Credit is $7,500 for the Honda Clarity PHEV. This amount is dependent upon battery size. The tax credit is non-refundable and doesn’t roll over to subsequent years. For more up-to-date and complete info, see: https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml
**For more information about state-specific tax credits, see: https://www.energy.gov/eere/electricvehicles/electric-vehicles-tax-credits-and-other-incentives
2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid

Real World Experience:

How do these stats stack up with reality?

Short answer: shockingly well, actually! In the 10k miles I’ve put on my car, I’ve averaged ~55 miles on every full charge of my car and nearly 50 mpg when driving in hybrid mode (something like 18% better than the stated values). It’s worth noting that most of my hybrid-mode driving is highway driving with only a little smattering of city driving – I manage to drive in electric mode upwards of 90% of the time. Of course, these differences are certainly, in part, due to my tendency to be a mild-mannered driver (apart from the occasional passive-aggressive mutterings under my breath about the inability of Baton Rouge citizens to merge properly).

As far as horsepower is concerned, I admit to lacking the ability to intuit horsepower by feel, but the car certainly seems to have the get-up-and-go that I ask of it when merging. Despite weighing in at just over 4000 lbs, the Clarity still manages to deliver a 0-60 time of around 7.5s, which is pretty solid for a hybrid with such a beefy battery.

As anyone who has driven an electric car will tell you: they’re exciting. Regardless of the 0-60 time, the instant torque and responsiveness of any electric vehicle is simply delightful. In the Clarity, this fact is compounded with a decent 0-60 coupled with a very sensitive accelerator when the car is in Sport Mode that makes driving almost dangerously fun. If the accelerator is pushed far enough, the car seamlessly kicks the gasoline engine on to provide the requested power, which is really easy to do in Sport Mode – a fact that leads me to keep the car in Eco Mode. The Clarity’s no McLaren (I had a little chuckle to myself when I parked next to a McLaren yesterday and noted the fact that the two cars could not be more different from each other), but it still manages to elicit joy in my daily commute.

Interesting Notes:

  • Remote Climate Control is a wonderful feature to have here in the oven that is Louisiana.
  • Keyless Entry is lovely.
  • The engine bay is significantly more roomy and accessible than most other hybrids I’ve seen, which is a huge boon for someone who likes to do his own car work and maintenance.
  • As many other reviewers/owners have mentioned, this car practically begs to be driven as an EV (it even has the tailpipe tucked away out of sight), despite managing to be rather adept at eking out a high degree of efficiency from burning gasoline.
  • The Clarity is so quiet that I hear other vehicles creeping up on me when driving, which quite literally adds a new dimension to my road awareness.
  • It’s nearly impossible to hear or notice the gasoline engine kicking on, except for when driving at low speeds.
  • The Clarity also makes an artificial exterior noise to alert pedestrians of its presence when driving at low speeds.
  • While it’s not a Clarity exclusive, the reverse camera is such a wonderful feature that I feel obligated to mention it. I’m almost surprised that reverse cameras haven’t become required by law at this point.
  • The auto-dimming rear view mirror is wonderful.
  • While some people prefer blind-spot monitoring, I think the addition of “Lane-Watch” (a camera on the passenger-side mirror that provides a wide-angle view of the passenger-side blind spot) is a fantastic feature.
  • The car has a brake-hold system that can be toggled to keep the car stopped without your foot on the brakes – even on a hill.
  • The Clarity has an Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) that will maintain a set distance from the car in front while cruising (traditional Cruise Control can be toggled easily, if desired). I was really shocked at how well it maintains distance, and the ACC will keep distance at speeds below 25 mph, as well (this feature is referred to as Low-Speed Follow).
  • The car has a Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) as well that attempts to keep the car centered in its lane. While LKAS works reasonably well in highway conditions, it tends to get confused by merge lanes and off/on ramps. Generally, it’s a nice system, but it’s important to learn when it doesn’t work properly.
  • The Clarity had some software problems upon release with estimating hybrid-mode range. It would drastically over-estimate hybrid range if a significant amount of electric driving was done (it essentially averaged the fuel economy between gas fill-ups, but included electric driving in the calculation). This was recently fixed in a software update, and now the range estimates are wonderfully accurate.
  • The Clarity doesn’t provide Wh/mi data like some other EVs, which is pretty disappointing. It also doesn’t tell you the state-of-charge of the battery in kWh, another small disappointment. As someone who tracks fuel economy religiously, I find this to be a constant, mild annoyance.


All in all, I think the Clarity PHEV is a fantastic choice for anyone who wants an electric vehicle, but who also needs the flexibility of being able to take long trips when needed. The 47-mile electric range (which, in the realm of PHEVs, is second only to the 2018 Volt’s 53-mile range) is enough to cover most, if not all of the average daily commute. This, coupled with its higher-than-average fuel economy (42 mpg combined) makes it a compelling choice for anyone with efficiency in mind – and it does all this while still being an incredibly roomy and comfortable vehicle to be in for long-distance travel! At the end of the day, I love my Clarity PHEV and feel that it truly is a plug-in vehicle without the compromise.


Utahns are turning the key: 11 years in, the idle free campaign has caught hold

Catalyst Magazine – September 30, 2018

By Ashley Miller

Do you ever find yourself sitting in your car with the engine running? Sure, we are probably all guilty of idling from time to time. Idling, however, is one of the easiest behavioral changes people can make to improve our air.

Exhaust from idling vehicles contains particulate matter and other pollutants that are known to cause serious health problems. Vehicle exhaust makes up about half of the air pollution in Utah, and unnecessary idling contributes a significant amount of emissions into our air shed each day. Of course, there may be times when idling is necessary, but if we stop the unnecessary idling, our air quality and our health will benefit.

Last month marked the 11th anniversary of the Idle Free Governor’s declaration. For the past 11 years, every September begins the kick-off of the Idle Free season in Utah. The declaration encourages Utahns to refrain from idling whenever possible, especially at schools, businesses and neighborhoods where idling creates concentrated hot spots of pollution. The declaration also shows the immense support for Idle Free campaigns from local leadership. This year, 71 Utah mayors signed on to the declaration. These 71 mayors represent the majority of Utah’s population, roughly 76%, and all of the 17 mayors representing cities in Salt Lake County, along with Mayor Ben McAdams, have signed this year’s Idle Free Declaration.

Utah had the first Idle Free campaign in the nation, and it started in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City was also the second city in Utah to adopt an Idle Free ordinance, passed in 2011. Now, eight cities, including Park City, Salt Lake City, Alta, Holladay, Logan, Murray, Sandy and Cottonwood Heights have idle free ordinances on the books.

But these ordinances didn’t come easily. In 2012, after Salt Lake City enacted its ordinance, the Utah State Legislature tried to strip the City (and any other city for that matter) of its authority to enact such an ordinance. The result was a state law on the books (that remains today) ensuring that any Idle Free ordinance in Utah will be toothless. It is written into any idling ordinance that an idling driver must be given three warnings before a citation, and the penalty can only be similar to that of a parking ticket. Even so, participating cities respect the power of education, viewing Idle Free ordinances as the best way to spread awareness of the issue to its citizens.

In addition to ordinances, other educational programs have played an important role in Idle Free. State organizations such as Utah Clean Cities and Breathe Utah have developed a unique idle free curriculum that reaches over 10,000 students each year. Local businesses are also clean air conscious with idle free policies, such as Kennecott’s haul truck idle management project and Intermountain Health’s Idle Free policy. Many other businesses erect Idle Free signs to encourage patrons to “turn the key.”

The real boots-on-the-ground champions of Idle Free are perhaps the Utahns most affected by idling vehicle exhaust: school kids. It’s usually the school kids that storm the city councils, urging them to take clean air seriously by starting with Idle Free. I personally witnessed several incredibly patient and well-behaved elementary schoolers waiting nearly five hours through a Sandy City Council meeting this past March to see their hard work pay off when the Council passed Sandy’s first Idle Free ordinance. It’s also difficult to say no to a child tapping on your window asking you to kindly turn your key.

One of the greatest success stories of Breathe Utah’s K-12 education program and Utah Clean Cities Idle Free campaign came recently when a Monte Vista Elementary school student was so concerned about idling and inspired to take action, she decided to do her STEM Fair project (science, technology, engineering and math) on the air quality around the parking lots, drop-off and pick-up locations at her school. She was able to show that air pollution was elevated in these areas. Her project won at the district level and she received second place at the BYU regional STEM Fair. Because of her findings she wanted to propose a solution to her school, which consisted of turning it into an idle free zone. Monte Vista Elementary then joined the growing list of Idle Free schools in Utah. Both Canyons and Granite School District are now 100% Idle Free.


What about Utah’s cold winter climate? Isn’t idling just an evil necessity of living with the greatest snow on earth? One clean air innovator said “no” to that question and came up with a solution that works in Utah.

Meet Joel Ewell, a real likable Utahn with a passion for solving problems. Ewell won the Bright Skies Clean Air Challenge two years ago for his invention, Idle Free Heat (see CATALYST Bright Ideas Reap Rewards, Feb. 2017). Idle Free Heat is a device that uses the heat from an engine block to provide heat for the cab without the engine running. His invention is perfect for school buses. After only 15 minutes of driving, a bus engine is hot enough to heat the passenger compartment of the bus for up to an hour. Ewell saw this as the perfect solution for a bus driver’s daily dilemma: keep warm with an idling engine, or turn the key and freeze while waiting for those precious passengers.

Idle Free Heat made its debut on two Granite School District buses as a pilot project in February, 2017. Ewell said at the time, “I tell my kids that some day every school bus will have Idle Free Heat. I’m hoping that in two years every school district in the state will have their fleets converted.” Fast-forward just one year: With a grant from the Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) and matching funds from Granite School District, Idle Free Heat is now installed on 40 Granite School District buses.

One idling school bus emits 81 grams of pollutants in just one hour. With all of the buses in Utah, that’s roughly 429 pounds of unnecessary pollution. Granite School District expects to eliminate hundreds of pounds of pollution each year by using the Idle Free Heat technology on these buses.

Air quality remains a complex issue. There is no “silver bullet” solution to solving Utah’s air pollution challenges. The Idle Free Campaign helps each of us to understand the importance of taking even small steps to help to clean the air. It helps us understand that each action we can take, however small it may seem, combines with the actions that others take, and when combined makes a big difference.  

Ashley Miller, J.D., is the program and policy director for Breathe Utah. She is a member of Utah’s Air Quality Policy Advisory Board and on the Salt Lake County Health Department Environmental Quality Advisory Commission.

Utah District Celebrates State’s Biggest CNG School Bus Fleet

NGT News – September 19, 2108

By Betsy Lillian

This year, the Jordan School District in Utah has added 36 new compressed natural gas (CNG) buses to its fleet, bringing the total to 105. Notably, this represents the largest CNG school bus system in the state, according to Utah Clean Cities.

On Sept. 12, local lawmakers, city leaders, school district officials, students and clean air advocates came together to celebrate the school district’s investment in CNG.

“Utah Clean Cities is honored to be allied with this tremendous accomplishment achieved by the Jordan School District,” said Tammie Bostick-Cooper, executive director of Utah Clean Cities. “We have been closely partnered with the advanced fuel fleet project since inception and watched the progression, setbacks and success of a goal. They have created a model for Utah and the nation.”

She continued, “The leadership piece they have achieved has been the capacity to translate vision into reality and to navigate an untraveled path. This has truly been a triumph; balancing the leadership attributes of patience, innovation, planning and the spirit of try, try again and never stop trying for end goal. Today, we celebrate a fleet and the leadership of that fleet that is a shining example of hard-won success.”

Source: Utah Clean Cities

The Jordan School District says it used $1.7 million in state and federal grant money to purchase the 36 buses this year. In total, its 105 buses are expected to save the district about $630,000 per year in fuel costs.

According to Utah Clean Cities’ estimates, throughout the 41 school districts and charter schools in Utah, school buses travel approximately 32 million miles each school year. This equates to a significant amount of diesel exhaust, which can lead to the formation of both wintertime particulate air pollution and summertime ozone pollution. Utah Clean Cities says CNG buses emit 40%-86% less particulate matter into the air compared to older diesel school buses.

In turn, numerous efforts have been made over the past several years to remove older diesel school buses in Utah and replace them with cleaner fuel alternatives such as CNG, clean diesel, electric, propane or hybrid. One CNG school bus can save the equivalent of the emissions produced by roughly 35 passenger cars on the road, the coalition notes.

Last year, Utah Clean Cities points out, Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah, announced that the state would use approximately $7.5 million in funds from the Volkswagen Dieselgate settlement to upgrade diesel school buses to a cleaner-burning alternative fuel.

A video of Jordan School District’s CNG bus celebration can be watched here:

Salt Lake City unveils EV roadmap, gets serious about electrification

FuelFix – July 26, 2018

By Utah Clean Cities

Pop-out doors, instant acceleration, electric bikes, autonomous electric ride-share programs; the future is exciting when it comes to electrified transportation. And, in many cases, the future is here. So, local governments had better get ready!

That’s why SLCGreen and Utah Clean Energy have introduced their new report: the Electrified Transportation Roadmap describes 25 steps that local governments can take to accelerate the electric transportation revolution. The Roadmap outlines how local governments can implement a variety of electric powered modes of transit including electric vehicles (EVs), e-bikes, electric transit, and electrified ridesharing.

Salt Lake City has integrated a number of these best practices into their internal operations, and theyre’re now working toward more community-scale projects as part of their Climate Positive SLC plan.

As the capital city’s sustainability department, they also believe it’s important to share what we’ve learned with other local governments. This is the central idea behind the Roadmap, as well as the organizing principle behind a workshop we organized March 14 with representatives from 16 local governments across the Wasatch Front to talk about best practices and to view EV offerings from a variety of local dealers.

Workshop attendees examining different electric vehicle models.

Why is there so much focus on electrified transportation? in short, because “electrifying everything” is a key component of plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and is an important part of Salt Lake City’s Climate Positive plan. If their transportation becomes electrified, SLC can control what types of (clean) energy make that electricity. Salt Lake City’s goal is to power our entire community with 100% clean electricity by 2032. Every year, more renewables are coming onto the grid. SLC wants to see as many cars, bikes, trains, and other vehicles running off that power as possible.

From an air quality perspective, electric vehicles also produce virtually no localized air pollution—so promoting EVs is a huge component of local governments’ efforts to clear the air. And the good news is that, according to a recent Bloomberg report, EVs are on track to accelerate to 54% of new car sales by 2040. The demand for EVs is increasing as technology improves. Range is going up, prices are going down, and manufacturers are adding more capabilities that are attracting consumers. Significantly, Utah was recently recognized as the #1 state for the growth rate of new EV drivers.

Still, EV adoption is in a critical phase.In Utah, there are currently roughly 4,400 EVs and plug-in hybrid vehicles registered in the state, which is about 0.7% of the total passenger vehicles in Utah. That’s where local governments, working with non-profit, utility, and business partners, can play a role. The next wave of EV adopters needs assurance that their vehicles will have the supporting infrastructure to refuel in a timely manner.

Attendees from 16 local governments listened to best practices in promoting electric transportation, March 14, 2018.

Local governments can build and maintain charging stations to alleviate “range anxiety,” as well as offering priority or free parking—like SLC’s Green Sticker program. They can work to integrate EV-ready infrastructure into new construction, particularly multi-family developments. Incentives to help cover the cost of business and multifamily EV chargers as well as public “fast chargers” are available today. Finally, governments can work with non-profits like Utah Clean Energy to offer bulk-purchase discount programs, ride and drives, and other programming.

Public outreach is a big component of what’s needed and the Roadmap provides recommendations for outreach strategies, as well as key messages. For example, electric vehicle ranges now often exceed 100, or even 200, miles per charge. Since the average American drives just under 40 miles/day, electric vehicles provide more than enough range for most personal use.

Another significant way that municipalities can take the lead on electrifying transportation is by integrating EVs into their fleets. Not only does this do the right thing for the environment, it sends a message to residents that electric vehicle technology is reliable.

Finally, moving toward EVs offers significant savings in both fuel and maintenance costs for fleets (crunch the numbers for yourself at FuelEconomy.gov).

Salt Lake City’s fleet has seen successes in recent clean vehicle upgrades and we’ve also installed workplace charging stations for fleet and employee use. These are strategies that other workplaces—whether in the private or public sector—can adopt. Collectively, we can make a significant dent in local air pollution and carbon emissions.

Check out the full Electrified Transportation Roadmap to learn more, and to see SLC’s whole list of “Live Electric” partner organizations helping bring cleaner transportation solutions to Utah.