California EPA Headquarters in Sacramento
California's commitment to its environment is demonstrated by its impressive Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in downtown Sacramento, just a few blocks from the State Capitol building. Photo credit: EV World

California's Tough CO2 Goals Explained

EVS 23 plenary keynote address by California Air Resources Board Executive Officer James Goldstene.

By EV World

James Goldstene is the Executive Officer of California's Air Resources Board, the agency that develops policy and regulations that govern emissions from power plants to harbor ferries to automobiles. Since other states (currently at 16 and counting ) -- and even one Canadian province (Quebec) -- have voted to adopt many of the emission standards set by the Golden State, what happens in California is of great interest to both auto and policy makers.

It is likely for this reason that the Electric Drive Transportation Association invited him to address the 23rd Electric Vehicle Symposium, held this month in Anaheim, California.

He begins his presentation -- the audio of which can be listened to by EV World premium subscribers using the MP3 players above -- by noting that it was in California that motor vehicle emission standards began to be set half a century ago in response to the deterioration of air quality around the state as post-War prosperity brought both an influx of population and a boom in automobile ownership. To this day, California's emission standards are the most stringent in the world.

The need to reduce fossil fuel emissions, especially from motor vehicles, is closely linked to the comparably urgent need to address global warming, twin imperatives that often share the same underlying technology. But unlike dealing with ozone-causing smog, solving global warming will require significant transformation of both our motor vehicles and how we use them, he stated. His talk, he added, would cover some of the potential solutions and their impact on future motor vehicles.

Presentation Synopsis

  • Long-time California residents will agree that air quality has steadily improved with the implementation of modern automotive emissions technologies. The number of days with bad air pollution have been cut in half over the last fifteen years, despite the increase in population, vehicles and amount of vehicle miles traveled, all three of which have increased over the same period.

    However, LA residents still breathe unhealthy air one day out of four, and "the downward trend has slowed in recent years." This is why the state continues to push for low and no-emission vehicles.

  • Beyond the pollutants that create smog, PM 2.5 is another serious health concern, causing the death of an estimated 8,000 Californians every year.
  • There are more than 1,000,000 PZEV vehicles on the road in California. These are vehicles with zero evaporative emissions and tailpipe emissions that are one-quarter that of set by the U.S. EPA. By the middle of the next decade, nearly half of all vehicles sold in the state will have to meet PZEV standards.
  • There are over a quarter million hybrids in the state that utilize Advanced PZEV technology, representing 4% of new car sales in California and it is estimated that by 2015, state regulations will require they represent one of out of every 15 new vehicles sold.
  • Since its adoption in the early 1990's, the ZEV mandate is been revised in recognition of progress made in certain automotive emission technologies and fuel cells, in lieu of slower advances in batteries.

    "It has been a challenge for ARB to find the balance point between pushing new technologies to far or fast versus merely following developments occurring for other reasons," Goldstene explained.

    Yet another round of ZEV mandate revisions are slated for consideration in 2008 with the current thinking being that fuel cell vehicles are ready for even larger demonstrations number in the several thousand vehicles. This expanded demonstration period would last up to six years, at which point commercial production of tens of thousands of fuel cell vehicles may be feasible.

  • ARB sees a re-emergence of interest in smaller battery electric vehicles. Also ARB's expert panel reported that plug-in hybrids could be commercial by 2015, which is reinforced by numerous automaker announcements of PHEV programs.

    Because of this, ARB may offer carmakers a PHEV option that will enable them to meet a part of their ZEV obligation, along with hydrogen-burning IC engine vehicles.

    "These technologies will push us closer to pure ZEV commercialization."

  • As the current ZEV mandate is written, the volume sales of all categories of low-emission vehicles, with the exception of pure ZEVs, would triple by 2015.
  • The environmental impact of global warming in California would impact water availability from mountain snow melt and cause salt water incursions on low-lying regions of the state. Higher temperatures and humidity would cause more smog and smog-related deaths. There would also be a 'dramatic increase' in forest fires.
  • California's Sierra snow pack is expected to shrink 60-80 percent if temperatures increase by 5-10 degree Fahrenheit.

    Warmer winters mean less snow pack, but more winter flooding, especially in northern California

  • In order to help mitigate the impact of global warming, the State has set an ambitious goal of reducing its CO2 emissions to pre-1990 levels, which will require a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A second, far more daunting goal aims for an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 that will stabilize CO2 concentrations at 450-500 parts per million on a planetary scale. California's newly adopted GHG regulation on passenger vehicle emissions is the first step in achieving that goal.

    "It made sense to address vehicles first because mobile sources account for over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in California, and because technologies are available now to reduce these gases."

  • Goldstene emphasized that even with the new GHG emissions regulations now in place -- but currently stalled in the U.S. EPA -- the state will not meet the more daunting 80% reduction and that tougher standards will have to be implemented in the future.
  • By 2050, California's passenger fleet will have grown by 60% to 40 million vehicles. In this scenario, the average fleet fuel economy will have to be 70 mpg. This combined with a 20% drop in vehicle miles traveled reduces total statewide fuel consumption by half. But even this still results in too much carbon entering the atmosphere.

    This means the carbon intensity of the remaining fuel used has to be reduced by 60% in order for passenger vehicles to meet their fair share of the 80% reduction goal by 2050. As a result, most vehicles will have to use renewable electricity and low-carbon intensity biofuels.

    The result is that petroleum consumption drops to 10% of its 1990 level in 2050.

    By then just 11% of vehicles are fueled solely by petroleum. The remainder are fueled by biofuels, electricity or hydrogen made "principally from renewable sources."

  • In summary, climate change is real and over the next forty years our transportation system will have to change dramatically. What it will look like remains uncertain, but what is certain is that in order to stabilize the planet's climate, passenger vehicles will have to be many times more efficient. We will also have to travel less and what fuels we do burn will have to be largely free from carbon.
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    Times Article Viewed: 4985
    Published: 20-Dec-2007


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