See 4-10-12 announcement about grants for EV Readiness on the Central Coast. See  2-28-12 announcement on new public EV charging stations in Santa Barbara County.  Plug-In Electric Vehicles Workshop was held in Santa Barbara January 28, 2012.  California Air Resources Board announced $15 million available in incentives to encourage consumers to buy cleaner cars.  See all the info on Clean Vehicle Rebates.

The District is working with the Community Environmental Council and other partners to establish public electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in the county. See more information on the Plug-In Santa Barbara web page, or contact Mary Byrd. Also see Clean-air cars fact sheet.

An electric car show and showing of the documentary film The Revenge of the Electric Car was held Wednesday, October 5 at the Marjorie Luke Theatre at 721 East Cota Street in Santa Barbara. The District was a sponsor.  See flyer.


Cars and trucks are a major source of smog-forming pollution in Santa Barbara County, and also of greenhouse gases contributing to global climate change. The best thing you can do for our air is to drive less – walk, bike, carpool, combine car trips, or take the bus whenever you can. Try telecommuting. When you do drive in your current vehicle, combine car trips, carpool, keep your car tuned up, and your tire pressures up, and don’t top off your tank at the gas station – stop fueling when the pump shuts off.

Buying a Cleaner Car

If you’re in the market to buy a vehicle, buying a clean-air car is another good thing to do to help keep our air clean. Whether you are doing web research ahead of time, talking to friends, making some phone calls, or visiting car dealerships, here are some things to consider.

Consider an electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid, or hybrid. Explore incentives, tax breaks and other programs available to bring down the cost of these vehicles.

Look for a new or newer model. Brand-new models have to meet the strictest standards. If you are looking at a used car, look for one that’s six years old or newer (these are exempt from smog-check requirements, too).

Compare vehicles.  See to compare vehicles.

Check the Environmental Performance Label on the car (see below).

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to pay more for a car that’s better for our air?

Not necessarily. Dealers today offer a range of less-polluting, fuel-efficient models. Some may qualify for rebates and incentives. You may be able to find a very low-emission version of your favorite vehicle model. And you will save money by driving a fuel-efficient car.

Should I get a hybrid? What about an electric car, or a  plug-in hybrid?

These are all good choices. But remember if one of these types of vehicles won’t work for you, you can still find the vehicle with the best smog and global warming score from the ranks of traditional gas-powered vehicles.

I need to buy a bigger vehicle, is  there any point trying to find one that’s cleaner?

There are significant differences between vehicles in these categories. Compare their pollution and fuel efficiency ratings.

More Things to Consider?

Ratings for Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), minivans, and trucks do not mean the same as ratings for cars. These vehicles have not had to meet the same emissions standards as cars in the past. The standards for some of these vehicle types have been changed, so the newest models will definitely be cleaner than they were. However, an older SUV, truck or minivan will be much more polluting than an older car.

Look at the fuel efficiency rating as well as the air pollution rating. The two don’t always go hand in hand, but fuel-efficient cars are often also less polluting. The better the fuel economy, the less production of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change (also referred to as global warming).

True or False?

The bigger the vehicle, the safer it is.

Not always true. There are different ways to evaluate the safety of vehicles. For example, some smaller vehicles are safer in something called “crash avoidance”, the ability to avoid serious accidents, than bigger vehicles.

Diesel vehicles are ok to drive now, because diesel is cleaner.

False. Although cleaner diesel fuel is here now, many diesel vehicles do not have good pollution controls. New diesel vehicle models are being designed that have better and better emission controls.

I am cleaning the air by buying an older diesel vehicle and running it on biodiesel or filtered cooking oil.

Biodiesel has many advantages, and re-use of cooking oil has many environmental benefits, as it represents re-use of a material that would otherwise be considered waste. However, older diesel vehicles typically are not outfitted with pollution controls. In addition, if you lose your supply of biodiesel or veggie oil, or take a trip, and choose to fill up with petroleum diesel (even if only for a short time), you will undo the good. Diesel exhaust contains particles and toxic chemicals, and diesel exhaust particulate is considered the number one airborne carcinogen in California.

Find out More

Check out the California Air Resources Board Guide to Cleaner Cars.