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State Puts The Brakes On Zero-Emission Vehicle Rule

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March 31, 2008

California regulators have put the brakes on a plan that required automakers to produce a certain amount of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by the year 2014, and it's a decision that has some people "fuming." The board approved a 70 percent reduction in the numbers of ZEVs required, but also increased the amount of hybrid vehicles automakers must produce.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has drastically reduced the number of zero-emission vehicles -- models that are powered by batteries or hydrogen fuel cells -- that must be sold by 2014, in favor of allowing more hybrid vehicles. Environmental groups say that's a mistake that will make it even harder for California to meet its goal of reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Spencer Quong, senior vehicles analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), says although hybrids create less pollution than conventional vehicles, the state needs more "pure," zero-emission vehicles on the road to prompt real air quality improvement.

"For the near term, the board made the right decision in incentivising the plug-in hybrids, but they really took a short-term view. We feel that you need more numbers of zero-emission vehicles on the road today to start us down the path to fighting global warming."

A new UCS study found that, in order for the state to meet its long-term climate change pollution reduction goals, California would need to have 379,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2020. The nation's six largest automakers have asked for more time to improve the technology and make the cars more affordable.

Quong says his group will continue to promote ZEV technology and work with CARB staff to get the infrastructure in place, because the ruling affects a number of industries.

"It just doesn't affect the automakers, it also affects battery manufacturers, companies that are looking at building hydrogen fueling stations or battery-charging stations for these electric vehicles."

For more information on the ZEV regulations, check the CARB Web site, at www.arb.ca.gov.

Lori Abbott/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - CA