California Zero-emissions Vehicle Program
Recurrent air quality problems around California's major metropolitan areas have promoted two decades worth of Californians dreaming of a state filled with zero-emissions vehicles.
Starting in 1990, planners had hoped that by 2003, 10% of all vehicles headed to California highways would be zero-emissions vehicles.
Lawsuits, technology issues and a general indifference by major automobile manufacturers kicked sand into the gears of the program, necessitating planning changes to address market realities.
Putting a sunny side on their ambitious plans, The California Air Resources Board notes, "over 750,000 Californians are driving partial zero and advanced technology partial zero emission vehicles (PZEV and AT PZEV). These vehicles have near-zero tailpipe emissions, zero evaporative emissions and an extended emissions warranty of 15 years or 150,000 miles. In fact, they are 80% cleaner than the average 2002 model year car."
The numbers sound good in the abstract. However, statistics from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show that in the year 2000, California had over twenty five million light trucks and cars registered in the states.
The 750,000 low-emissions California drivers still only accounts for less than 4% of California motorists.
The latest revisions to the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program provide a better match for market realities, emphasizing coordinated policies addressing both air quality and greenhouse gas (GHG) issues, while promoting the production and use of low-emission vehicles such as plug-in hybrid cars, battery electric cars and fuel cell cars.
California, for example, leads the United States in CNG vehicle (compressed natural gas) use. Manufacturers are currently negotiating issues such as changes in fuel standards and fuel sources as a way to further CNG vehicle use.
Planners added another new twist, announcing a coordinated time line for cleaner vehicles (2017-2025) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The goal is to give vehicle manufacturers a lead time to organize their production processes.
While the program has morphed from zero-emissions to low-emissions, the low-emissions approach might be the most appropriate way to encourage the 96% of California's high emissions drivers to keep the dream of a cleaner and greener California alive.
© 2011. Patricia A. Michaels