California Air Resources Board Likely to Change Rules on ZEV Mandate

December 10, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is considered likely to pass some recently-proposed amendments to a 1990 ZEV mandate. Originally CARB stated that, by the year 2003, 4 percent of all vehicles sold in the state of California had to be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) and a further 6 percent had to be cars that fall just short of the zero-emission standard. However, the proposed changes will split the 4 percent equally between battery-powered zero-emission vehicles and less efficient cars that use natural gas, hybrid electric or fuel cell engines. The new proposal also calls for expanding the clean air program to require that as many of 16 percent of new cars and vehicles sold in California meet the ZEV standards by 2018, either through battery power or any of the other new technologies available.

“This is not a retreat from the battery technology in any way," board spokesman Jerry Martin averred. “It is an acknowledgment that other technologies have been making headway. In 1990, battery technology was the only prospect for zero emissions cars. Now we have a number of others."

The proposed changes have met with mixed reactions. Environmentalists are unhappy with the slash in required ZEVs. Tim Carmichael, executive director of the Coalition for Clean Air, claims, “What we're setting up here is a slow death rather than a quick death."

Meanwhile, automakers, who have long fought the state board's rules, claim that there is no market for these alternative vehicles. General Motors spokesman Donn Walker contends, “If there was a market for electric vehicles in California, wouldn't need a mandate." He added, “We are aggressively opposed to mandates in all forms."

The new rules, which the board revisits every two years, are believed likely to be approved by the politically-appointed state board on 25 January, 2000.