This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

January 15, 2003

California Proposes Delay to Zero-Emission Vehicle Program

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) proposed new changes to its Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program on January 10th, delaying the start of the program until 2005. ZEVs are battery- or fuel-cell-powered electric vehicles that produce no air emissions while on the road. First adopted in 1990, the ZEV program was meant to advance ZEV technologies and improve the state's air quality by phasing in a mandate for a percentage of cars sold in the state to be ZEVs.

Initially planned to begin in 1998, the program was most recently modified in 2001 and set to begin this year, but faced both administrative and legal challenges that delayed its implementation. An attempt to provide partial credit for hybrid electric vehicles failed a legal challenge because the rule included references to fuel economy.

In the new proposal, the ZEV program will begin in 2005, and hybrid vehicles and vehicles with gaseous storage systems will earn partial credits regardless of the fuel efficiency they achieve. Automakers will be able to meet up to three-quarters of their ZEV requirement by selling these "advanced-technology partial ZEVs" or "AT PZEVs" through 2011. The estimated result (compared to the 2001 amendments): by 2011, 36 percent more AT PZEVs will be sold in the state, but the number of true ZEVs sold will drop 57 percent, to a total of 20,800. A public hearing on the latest proposal will be held on February 27th. See the "Staff Report: Initial Statement of Reasons" and the public hearing notice on the ARB Web site.

One interesting development: The new ZEV proposal includes higher credits for hybrid electric vehicles that can be recharged by plugging them in. That addition stemmed from recent research carried out by the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Working Group under the direction of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The research demonstrated significant fuel and emissions benefits from such "plug-in" hybrid vehicles. For details, see the EPRI press release.

The ARB also announced in January that grants of up to $11,000 per vehicle are available to fleets that purchase ZEVs. The vehicles must be garaged and operated in a community that is not meeting ozone standards and that is disproportionately impacted by poor air quality. See the Fleet ZEV Incentive Program on the ARB Web site.