Even with today’s low fuel prices, gas guzzlers are rapidly being phased out in the United States.
And renewed funding by the Texas Legislature has restarted a program in North Texas to get some of those gas guzzlers — and high polluters — off the roads.
Last session, the Legislature allotted $22 million to restart the replacement voucher program under AirCheckTexas Drive A Clean Machine, a program run by the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Aircheck works in two ways to get dirty cars off highways. It provides financial help for income-qualified owners to replace their vehicle if it doesn’t pass emission tests or is at least ten years old. Or it helps pay for the cost to repair those vehicles to bring them into compliance and pass the emissions test.
The program gives replacement vouchers up to $3,500 for qualified vehicles and owners toward a newer car. It was restarted last October after being shut down for lack of funding from 2011 to 2015, said Dora Kelly, air quality operations manager for NCTCOG.
The repair program, which has been running continuously since 2002, gives up to $600 towards emission repairs. This program works through 146 repair facilities in the area and handles issues such as a hole in the tailpipe or problems with the catalytic converter or transmission.
Kelly said the voucher program still has $1.5 million to give out to qualified vehicle owners.
“Some people are still not aware of the program,” she said. “Some people don’t realize that they qualify.”
Income qualifications are 200 percent above the poverty level. For a single person, that translates into $35,640, or for a family of four, $72,900.
Since its inception, the Aircheck program has taken 31,697 high-polluting vehicles off the road and repaired 32,352 others to pass their emissions test, Kelly said. The additional funding is expected to provide vouchers for the replacement of approximately 6,000 more vehicles.
This comes as North Texas continues to struggle with air quality. The American Lung Association recently gave Tarrant and Dallas Counties a grade F for its air quality, ranking DFW 11th in the country for the worst ozone.
Tarrant County had 70 days rated at the orange level for ozone, 10 rated red and two rated purple last year, according the association.
But more help also may be coming in the form of better gas mileage for vehicles, which reduces emissions.
According to a report by the Consumer Federation of America released this week, vehicles chugging along below 16 miles per gallon have declined to just 4 percent of 2016 models, down from one-third of all 2008 models.
“Fuel efficiency increasingly comes standard with new cars, trucks and SUVs” said Jack Gillis, CFA spokesman and author of The Car Book. “Even if you’re in the market for a large pickup or SUV, you’d have to go out of your way to find a true gas guzzler.”
Meanwhile, in the CFA’s study of more than 1,000 new vehicle types, 13 percent achieved more than 30 miles per gallon in on-road tests, up from just 1 percent in 2008.
Overall, 56 percent of passenger car and truck models offered for sale in the United States meet or beat the current national standards, based on vehicle class, of at least 23 mpg, CFA said. Remember that automakers meet fuel-efficiency requirements on an average basis across fleets and vehicles classes, so some models can be below the standard as long as there are others to exceed them.
For even better mileage and low or no emissions, consider an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, which still come with a federal tax credit. The credits range from $2,500 to $7,500, depending on the size of the battery pack.
That translates into a $4,007 tax credit for purchasing a Ford Fusion Energi and C-Make Energi models and $7,500 for a Chervolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, according to Green Car Reports.
The credits for plug-in vehicles is limited to the first 200,000 sold per carmaker before it begins to be phased out. But Green Car Reports said none of the manufacturers are near that phase-out number yet, making the full credits good for a least a couple more years.
Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net
▪ Provides a replacement voucher for up to $3,500 for vehicles 10 years or older or that do not pass emissions test.
▪ Provides a vehicle repair for emissions problems up to $600.
▪ For income-qualified vehicle owners who make up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $72,900 for a family of four.
▪ Applications for both programs can be found at NCTCG’s website at http://www.nctcog.org/trans/air/act/index.asp. Applications and income documentation for all adults in the household must be submitted by fax to 817-608-2315, or by mail to AirCheckTexas, Program P.O. Box 5888, Arlington, TX 76005-5888.
▪ Participating counties include Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall and Tarrant.