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

March 12, 2003

California to Loosen Rules Mandating Electric Vehicle Sales

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) proposed on March 5th an additional relaxation of its rules that mandate the sale of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) in the state, citing in part a lack of advancement in battery technology. After proposing changes to the ZEV program in January, CARB proposed the additional changes in response to public comments.

The new proposed rules eliminate most future requirements for the sale of ZEVs—cars powered by either batteries or hydrogen fuel cells—instead allowing automakers to meet those requirements through the sale of hybrid electric vehicles and vehicles with gaseous storage systems (such as internal-combustion engines fueled with compressed natural gas or hydrogen). Methanol-powered fuel cell vehicles would also earn credits, and hybrid electric vehicles earn more ZEV credits if they use higher voltages and more powerful motors.

When originally instituted in 1990, the rules would have required ZEVs to comprise 10 percent of vehicle sales in California this year. Since then, CARB has steadily reduced the ZEV requirements; the new proposed rules would result in only 250 ZEVs on the road by 2008. In 2006, an independent panel would reassess the state of ZEV technology, at which point CARB may set new ZEV requirements for 2009 and beyond. However, if the proposed rules are adopted and remain in place, by 2020 the ZEV rules will require no ZEVs to be sold in the state, instead requiring nearly 400,000 advanced-technology cars to be sold each year. In contrast, the rules proposed in January would have required sales of nearly 30,000 ZEVs per year by 2020, plus sales of nearly 150,000 advanced-technology vehicles per year. CARB will hold a hearing on the proposed changes on March 27th. See the CARB Web site.