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Well, it happened. The California Air Resources Board decided that electric vehicles and similar zero-emission autos are not ready for prime time. CARB voted to cut the number of zero-emission vehicles that automakers will need to sell in the state by 70 percent. This isn't as bad as the 90 percent cut many had feared, but it's still a massive reduction in pressure on the big auto companies to produce clean rides. CARB chair Mary Nichols called the reduced requirement (7,500 cars between 2012 and 2014 instead of 25,000 as a 2003 revision had called for) was "realistic" and that the pressure would still be brought to bear to get hydrogen fuel cell and electric vehicles onto California roads. The definition of "zero emission" and "partial zero emission" has always been slightly confusing (I mean, really, what is a partial zero?), and it just got murkier. According to Reuters, Nichols said, "All we've done is change the definition of a ZEV to allow an electric vehicle to have a little supplemental gasoline that goes with it. I don't think that it's a step backward in the real world." No, but it's not really a step forward, either.

[Source: Nichola Groom / Reuters]


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  • 23 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      That CARB would dilute the ZEV mandate even further is beyond comprehension. One would think that they might want to clean a bit of the egg off their face from their past decisions. Nope. "Throw another omelette at us, please."

      Here's my question: if you were in charge of CARB, what would you propose to facilitate and accelerate the transition to clean, renewable energy for transportation?

      IMHO, I think that CARB should completely forget about percentages (like before) or numbers and credits (like now).

      The ZEV mandate should simply require that, by 2012, all the major auto manufacturers (and I would lower that "threshold" to include companies like Mitsubishi, Subaru, Volvo, etc.) must comply with these stipulations:

      * They must have a ZEV vehicle in their dealers' showrooms, and at least one more on the lot for customers to test drive.

      * Those ZEVs must be capable of a top speed of no less than 80 mph.

      * They must have an emissions-free, EPA certified range of no less than 125 miles.

      * They must meet federal safety standards.

      * They must cost no more than 120% of the average base price of all the models in the same "class" sold by the parent company in the previous year.

      * They must be deliverable to customers who purchase them within at least a 60-day period.

      * For its part, CARB will establish the very best government incentives available to those who purchase the ZEVs (say, for example, tax deductions, no registration fees, no sales tax, carpool lane access, etc.,etc.).

      * If the car manufacturers do not comply? They just can't develop and produce the ZEVs fast enough to meet that deadline? Then make it legally possible for the dealers to secure their ZEVs from other sources without losing their franchises.

      * And if the dealers do not comply? Then the state revokes their business licenses until the requirement is met. Period. THAT will get the auto companies moving, believe me.

      I do not think that such a mandate is unreasonable. After all, the EV1 and the RAV4-EV were capable of that same speed and range back in 2002, so surely car manufacturers can do even better nowadays.

      What kind of ZEV the car companies wish to provide should be left up to them --be it an electric car, a fool-cell vehicle, a series hybrid, or even one powered by a flywheel or a solar panel (ha!)— as long as it produces ZERO emissions for at least 125 miles. No more of CARB favoring one technology over another: let the technology itself decide.

      And no more of this "no customer demand" excuse. If customers do not even know about the option, how can they demand it? This ZEV mandate would assure that customers DO know --and can decide accordingly. Get the ZEVs in the showrooms! Take advantage of the free market system instead of trying to thwart it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

      The oil industry and the car manufacturers fooled CARB in 2003 with its promise that, if the ZEV mandate would dump EVs, hydrogen vehicles were "just around the corner." Funny how that "corner" just keeps getting further and further down the road, huh?

      Now they've fooled CARB yet again by promising not only hydrogen vehicles, but also biofuels and hybrids. And this at a time when Tesla, Think, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Phoenix, Aptera --to name only a few-- are cranking up production of pure EVs, the most efficient, cleanest solution available!

      Fooled a second time: shame on CARB!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Honda Clarity FCX

      "These groundbreaking vehicles will be leased to Southern Californians starting during the summer of 2008"
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well yes, I didn't include every aspect that should be considered. AutoBlogGreen doesn't like when a single comment runs into multiple pages.

      I was just trying to get an idea of the scope of the CARB ruling in relation to the size of the auto market.

      The number one issue for energy in relation to energy security is imported oil. The number one issue with global warming is coal. The number one issue with smoggy air in California is auto exhaust.

      All three issues need to be addresses, and very little is being done on any of them.

      California has mostly abandoned coal as an energy soure for electricity. There are no coal plants in California, but not all of California's electricity is produced in state.

      The rest of the USA electric supply still largely runs on coal. We need to fix that. So far, our politicians are unwilling to even go so far as to impose a moritorium on new coal plants, let alone do what is really needed, which is to start systematically replacing coal plants with cleaner alternatives.
      • 7 Years Ago
      As a big EV fan, cutting down the number of EVs required to be sold doesn't bother me nearly as much as redefining a ZEV to include gas-powered vehicles like PHEVs.

      I know batteries are not capacious enough yet, and capacitors never will be the solution, but that still doesn't mean we should delete the concept of a class of strictly non-polluting vehicles from CARB's regulations.

      So even though my first electric car will likely be a PHEV, I think CARB needs to keep their eye on the future and not water down any incentives meant for vehicles that bring true oil (including french fry oil) independence by spreading them thinly over other vehicles.
      • 7 Years Ago
      There is no way CARB can force me, as a consumer, to buy a ZEV that does not fit my needs. Therein is the major flaw of these mandates. The auto companies simply cannot guarantee that any ZEV vehicle they make will actually sell. And somehow I doubt CARB would frog march me into a GM dealership and force me to buy one at gunpoint.

      Why some people don't understand this mystifies me. To some it has to be a conspiracy to keep ZEVs off the road, instead of simple consumer preference and an inability for the technology to meet those preferences.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Won't Tesla, Aptera and Phoenix together MORE than satisfy this requirement?

      Tesla, even at 1000/year by 2014 will have 5000 on the road, many of those in CA.

      Aptera already has 1000 orders in CA as they transition into production, I can't think they'll be doing less than 600/year (another 3000 by 2014 as a VERY conservative guess)

      What are Phoenix's numbers like? They don't have to be very ambitious at all to get to the 7500 number.

      CARB is a joke! They should know more about the industry than any of us rubes on any blog, yet they make recommendations that totally fail to reflect either what's wanted, needed, or will be available. Now I'm getting all upset.
      • 7 Years Ago
      @ goodcheer...

      there's another way of making an EV look attractive - make a comparable gasoline model more expensive to use. And the easiest way to do that is to raise the price of gasoline. It has the added side-effect of increasing state revenues, and encourages less-consumptive behavior throughout.

      And @ Mik Cal - corporate innovation is all good, but it'll go nowhere without a good business plan. Silicon valley is littered with the remains of innovative products which did not make it in the marketplace... and if there's no motivation on the part of the CONSUMER to buy a ZEV (how many EV1's were leased over its lifespan?), then any ZEV mandate will be doomed to failure.

      Unfortunately, no politico will have the stones to actually suggest such a simple thing as a gas tax.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Some venture capitalists should buy out NUMMI and turn it into a PHEV and EV plant. Maybe contract out with Toyota like they do now to build a Toyota PHEV. Make Silicon Valley the new Detroit. Let's see if the market can lead the regulators this time (doesn't always happen that way but maybe this once it will).

      I think at least the leadership of these companies needs to move somewhere else...I lived in Michigan for a while and at least for me wasn't the most inspiring place to live. Some great people there but it's still Midwestern and "different" there means "bad" or "weird".
      • 7 Years Ago
      Grrr...

      Well I guess this throws down the gauntlet for the free enterprise system and real demand for true (local) ZEVs to work their magic. Tesla and Aptera stand to do very well. Phoenix better change their business plan quick if they want to have a shot too.

      After all, if enough people really do want ZEVs, someone will make them and do well financially in the process. The lack of competition only increases the lucrativeness. The hurdles are 1) making them acceptable to the general public (range, speed, price) 2) firing up the marketing machine to create demand for ZEVs. This second point is just beginning to happen via word-of-mouth. Once Tesla & Aptera have some cars on the road and more ready to sell, they would do well with some national commercials to get the word out. (Then again, with cars on the road, word-of-mouth will go into overdrive.) The "right tool for the job" motif could go far in combating the "big truck, big engine, king/queen-of-the-road, grunt, grunt" mentality.

      In other news, anything from EEStor of late?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Some sort of estimate of what this means would help put things in perspective.

      For instance, displacing 7500 regular cars saves 4.5 million gallons of gasoline a year, assuming each car goes 15,000 miles at 25 MPG. That's about 107,000 barrels of oil saved per year.

      I'm not sure about California, but the US overall consumes about 7.3 billion barrels of oil per year, so that's a reduction of 0.0015%. It's a start, but a pretty darn small one.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Good Cheer:

      Putting a ZEV model on the road that does not meet consumer preferences, one that the public may despise and hate, will do more damage to their image than anything else. Because it's a new thing, the first vehicles have to be perfect. They have to grab the public with styling (like Tesla is doing), and capability.

      Don't give me a badly-engineered punishment car mandated by the State. Look at what happened to diesels in this country in the early 80s. Their image suffers, even today, when they're generally 30% more fuel efficient than gasoline.

      State mandates are stupid when they force an immature, unreliable, and expensive product to market. You will do BEVs more harm than good, and cost taxpayers money to boot.
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