Seven years ago, the carbon fiber flywheels that Pentadyne Power Corp. now sells to produce electricity for backup generators had a different application.
They propelled the world's first turbine-flywheel powered car around a race track. But sluggish demand for alternative-fuel vehicles, and safety challenges, caused the Chatsworth firm to use the acquired technology for other purposes.
Now, Pentadyne is taking a second look at the advanced transportation industry following the landmark Sept. 24 decision by the California Air Resources Board to require vehicle manufacturers to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"We are able to provide power very rapidly to get a car accelerated or to boost power for hill climbing," said Flint Craig, Pentadyne's chief financial officer. "We are well positioned to tap into that market when it's mature."
Other local companies also see opportunities in developing technology for hybrid, fuel cell, electric and other clean-energy vehicles that will be needed to meet the new regulations should they survive a likely legal challenge from the auto industry.
"We know the advanced transportation technology industry will not cost jobs but create jobs," said Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president of Pasadena-based Westart-Calstart, which just issued a report identifying more than 100 high-tech companies and institutions in the state that are poised to benefit. "California has an awful strong skill set in these technology areas."
The report by Calstart, a non-profit organization that promotes advanced transportation technologies, suggests the new rules could pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy, rather than being a drag as the automakers have argued.
California's greenhouse gas emission rules require automakers to reduce carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and other tailpipe emissions by an average of 22 percent in 2012 and 30 percent in 2016 in new cars and light trucks. They will go into effect in January 2006, unless the state Legislature and governor overturn them during a mandatory one-year review period.
The air board estimates that the rules will cost up to $1,050 per vehicle, but will be more than offset by savings from lower gas consumption. But the auto industry contends the regulations would add at least $3,000 to the price of new cars without any measurable economic or health benefits.
Manufacturers also contend that the industry is moving ahead on its own to develop hydrogen-powered automobiles, though critics complain they have lagged in producing hybrid-electric cars that would help Detroit meet the California near-term regulations.
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