California ZEV Mandate Review
By EV World
The California Air Resources Board, made up of civilian appointees, meet for the first time since 2003, when the board approved a carmaker-inspired plan to allow the substitution of fuel cell vehicles and "Partial Zero Emission Vehicles" or PZEVs in state parlance for meeting the 10 percent Zero Emission Vehicle mandate. ARB's acquiescence to carmaker wishes led to the immediate recall and destruction of nearly all of the 5,000 or so battery electric vehicles in operation in California, Arizona, Florida and Georgia.
So, with a new board chairman, Dr. Robert Sawyer and a sprinkling of new members, ARB convened a day-long meeting in San Diego to hear a report from Staff, the Expert Panel members it hired to review the status of ZEV technology, and to take testimony from the public, which carried over into the following day. The purpose of the meeting was to begin the review process of what changes, if any, need to be made in the mandate, a process that will take most of the summer and culminate in a Board vote later this year.
ARB webcast the meeting and EV World recorded virtually all of it. We have divided it into a number of more accessible sessions, starting with the brief to the Board by Staff that provides an update on the status of the current ZEV mandate, which despite rumors, wasn't killed, just knocked into a coma in 2003. It is about to come out of that coma with a vengeance, immediately upping the percentage of ZEV vehicles required to be sold in the state to 11% and rising starting around the 2009 time frame for all but two carmakers -- Toyota and Ford -- who have enough "ZEV credits" banked to keep them in compliance until around 2011. Nevertheless, carmakers are anxious to have the current mandate again weakened by allowing them more credits for fuel cell vehicles -- already awarded 10 credits to every one for a battery electric car -- by allowing them to get credit in California for fuel cell vehicles they put in other states, and by moving out further the compliance dates.
As you discover from both the Expert Panel presentations and public testimony, this will again be a contentious debate with the board caught squarely in the middle between automakers looking for greater laxity in the law and public interest groups fighting to preserve or tighten the mandate.
You can listen to the 20-minute Staff brief using either of the two MP3 players at the top of the page, or you may download the 4.7MB file to your computer for transfer and playback on your favorite MP3 device.
You will also want to listen to the official Expert Panel presentation, which is likely to serve as the basis for whatever changes ARB makes to the ZEV mandate. While this may seem like an issue relevant to California-only, it isn't. Increasingly more states and even Canada are following the State's lead by enacting similar vehicle emission standards, which poses a serious manufacturing and marketing challenge to carmakers. As California goes, so goes much of the Northeastern quadrant of the United States, impacting a significant percentage of new vehicle sales for carmakers and their dealers.
Much of the debate centers on the wisdom of pursuing a hydrogen-based transportation future with carmakers, ARB Staff and the expert panel clearly favoring this approach, despite mounting evidence that it may not produce the environmental results they hope for, at least in the near or even mid-term. The outcome of this debate is likely to reverberate around the planet as other communities and nation's explore pathways beyond petroleum.