Release 98-47
July 30, 1998
CONTACT:  Jerry Martin
(916) 322-2990
Rich Varenchik
(626) 575-6730

Market-Based Approach Zero Emission Vehicle Program Working for Californians

        SACRAMENTO - California's Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program is advancing towards a successful market-based launch in 2003, according to a report released today by the Air Resources Board (ARB). Additionally, zero-emitting fuel cell engines are developing ahead of expectations.

        ARB Chairman John Dunlap said, "The market-driven ZEV rule has prompted impressive results and dramatic advancements in vehicle technologies. These advancements along with the remarkable developments of fuel cell engines, will help California in its war on smog as well as provide new consumer choices for transportation."

        According to an ARB staff report, the performance and quality of today's ZEVs are directly related to the progress made in battery technology. The introduction of advanced battery-powered electric vehicles has provided an unprecedented amount of technical information regarding battery performances and reliability. Of the four most promising battery technologies, nickel-metal-hydride and sodium-nickel-chloride could be available in mass quantities by 2003.

        Another touchstone in the ZEV evolution is the rapid development of fuel cell engines as an alternative source of mobile power. Fuel cell technology promises to be a far more efficient and cleaner way to operate a vehicle while offering the performance level of combustion-powered vehicles. The principle behind fuel cells involves a chemical process that creates electricity. One of the terminals is placed in a fuel, such as hydrogen, while the other is held in a source of oxygen. The process produces electricity, while the only emissions are water and carbon dioxide.

        The Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Panel assisted the ARB in developing an independent judgement of emerging fuel cell technology by meeting with fuel experts and visiting research centers worldwide.

        Chairman Dunlap said, "Fuel cell development has exceeded all expectations, and we now expect introduction of fuel cell engines in the first half of the next decade. We are confident that it will lead to a viable alternative to complement the increasingly cleaner vehicle fleet."

        Encouraged by expectations in the development of battery-powered electric cars, the Board adopted a rule that ten percent of new vehicles sold in California would have to be ZEVs by the year 2003. The program was approved in September 1990 as part of the Low-Emission Vehicle regulations. The first step is the introduction of several thousand electric vehicles with high range and advanced batteries which began this year. Other steps agreed to by the ARB and the seven major auto manufacturers which are set forth in a signed Memoranda of Agreement (MOA) include:

- continued investment in ZEV and battery research;
- offer for sale ZEVs to consumers in accordance with market demand;
- expansion of vehicle charging infrastructure; and
- provide annual progress reports

        Each of the auto manufacturers is making progress towards meeting its MOA commitments. Over 3,000 ZEVs are currently in use on California roadways.

        The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.

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