Hi everyone, Louise Bedsworth, clean vehicles analyst in Berkeley here with my first blog. I’ll bet a few of you have looked at HybridCenter and said, “ZEV, PZEV, SULEV, oh my!” What are all of these crazy California clean vehicle acronyms and why should you care if they come to your state?
ZEV stands for zero emission vehicle. For all intents and purposes, these are battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. In 1990, the same year that GM announced the commercial production of its sleek electric vehicle the EV1, California adopted a regulation requiring that a portion of new vehicle sales in the state be zero emission vehicles. The original regulation required that 10% of new vehicle sales in California be ZEVs by 2003.
Needless to say, as we look at the streets today, it is clear that we have not met this goal. In fact, California has amended the ZEV regulations a number of times, backing off of the original phase-in goals and, most recently, providing alternative pathways for manufacturers to comply (yes, much like the current lawsuit against California’s precedent-setting global warming pollution regulations on autos, GM sued to try and stop the ZEV rule, too). And, Toyota and GM, manufacturers of the two major commercial EVs on the market are actually taking those vehicles from current owners and sending them to the scrap heap. So much for “consumer choice” eh?
And while fuel cell vehicles are not on the immediate commercial horizon, this is not to say that the ZEV program has been a failure! Quite the contrary, the ZEV program has encouraged the development of improved battery technology and vehicles that achieve very low emissions (PZEVs, or partial low emission vehicles). In 2001 and 2003 amendments, additional ZEV credits were provided for advanced technology PZEVs, or AT-PZEVs, including our favorite subject here--hybrids. Under these regulations, hybrids could make up over 10% of new vehicle sales in California by 2010.
In addition, California’s global warming regulations on passenger vehicles further encourages further hybrid development and will lead to more widespread use of currently-available clean technology for conventional vehicles.
Now for the $64,000 question for those of you outside the Golden State--who cares about the wacky Californians? What does this mean for you and hybrids? California has a knack for setting trends when it comes to vehicle emission standards (indeed, because of the way the federal Clean Air Act is written, when it comes to improved emissions standards, only California can go first beyond federal standards, then others may follow). In fact, seven states currently have opted to adopt California’s standards in place of the federal standards (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey), creating an even larger market for the clean vehicle technologies that they encourage. Together with California, California’s emission standards apply to one quarter of the new vehicles sold in the United States. And, this market share is only going to increase as several other states are in various stages of adopting California standards (Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, and Maryland).
Given the vacuum at the national level on clean car policies--be it improved fuel economy, reduced smog-forming and toxic emissions, or global warming pollution--and the increasingly unfathomable recalcitrance of the American automakers, it is vitally important that the states to create pressure for clean vehicle technologies. Despite the automakers’ best efforts to stop them, California has created a path for states to achieve just this.
So, keep your eyes open--has your state adopted California standards? If so, it will soon be acting to include California’s heat trapping gas regulations to the books. Unlike the myriad uses of the word “dude” – everyone has something to gain by the spread of this California trend to every state in the country.
Posted by: LWB