Release 95-20      

December 21, 1995


Jerry Martin / Daven Oswalt /
Allan Hirsch
(916) 322-2990
ARB Orders Staff Proposal for ZEV Rule Change

-- The California Air Resources Board (ARB), the state's air quality agency, today directed its staff to finalize a plan that would offer changes to the current Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) rule, scheduled for introduction in 1998.

John Dunlap, ARB chairman, said, "This plan provides for a successful launch of commercially viable electric cars that protects public health and will provide new high-tech jobs in California. This plan promotes a market-based introduction of ZEV's and will unleash the engineering and the marketing prowess of automakers."

"We have directed our staff to develop that plan and present it to this Board for our consideration at a public hearing no later than March 1996," he added.

The staff's preliminary proposal is to drop the 2 percent requirement in the early years of the program and to ramp up to 10 percent ZEVs by 2003, when all car companies that sell more than 3000 vehicles per year statewide must comply with the regulation. Also, manufacturers will receive extra ZEV credit through 2003 for EVs sold before 1998 and those equipped with advanced battery types that have the range and lifespan that many experts believe is needed to make them competitive with gasoline powered models. Those battery types, including lithium and nickel-based designs, are expected to be commercially available by 2001.

An alternative to the present rule was requested by the Board at its November meeting after the Battery Technology Assessment Panel reported that according to auto makers, the sales demand for lead / acid batteries with limited ranges would not appeal to enough buyers to meet the rules. The battery team was one element of a process that began with a series of nine public forums that explored a number of issues vital to the rule's implementation, such a cost / marketability, technology, the use of hybrids and the development of infrastructure needs.

Those forums were followed by a meeting among stakeholders in the process, executives from auto manufacturers, utilities and environmental groups, that were invited to present alternatives to the present rule. From those meetings, the Board was able to obtain ideas from a broad audience representing a variety of interests.

The ZEV rule was adopted in 1990 as part of a four stage rule to limit emissions from passenger cars and light-duty trucks. The rule presently requires the seven car companies with sales of more than 35,000 vehicles per year in the state: General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mazda to offer 2 percent of its 1998 new cars as zero emission. Presently, only electric vehicles do not emit tailpipe emissions