But Requirement Must Be Strengthened for California to Meet 2050 Climate and Public Health Goals

BERKELEY, Calif. (Nov. 16, 2011) – The California Air Resources Board (ARB) today announced the outlines of a Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) program that represents the state’s strongest push for advanced vehicles in the program’s 20-year history, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The program aims to have battery, fuel cell, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles account for up to 15 percent of California’s new vehicle sales in 2025. Overall, the program would result in as many as 1.4 million such vehicles being sold in California between 2018 and 2025.

“For years, the ZEV program has helped bring cleaner gasoline vehicles to the market. Now it’s aiming to deliver on its original mission—putting more people behind the wheels of battery and fuel cell electric cars,” said David Friedman, deputy director of UCS’s Clean Vehicles program. “Given the impressive progress that’s been made on electric car technology so far, the ARB can now help move advanced vehicles from auto shows and flashy ads to people’s driveways.”

However, UCS analysis indicates the standard should be strengthened to result in 1.8 million ZEV sales by 2025, a 30 percent increase, in order to meet California’s climate and public health goals. Further, unresolved details related to the program could significantly reduce overall ZEV sales below the ARB’s announcement, such as automaker’s ability to meet some of the requirements by using past credits for selling cleaner gasoline cars or using future credits from the national global warming pollution program.

“These new targets are laudable, but they must go further for California to deliver on the safer climate, cleaner air and stronger economy it’s promised,” Friedman said.

“ZEVs need sufficient sales volumes to launch the industry and make electric cars an affordable choice for millions of car-shoppers. California must also eliminate credits that would allow automakers to produce fewer electric cars. At the end of the day, no one can drive a credit.”

While some automakers are likely to make more electric vehicles than required, others may look for ways to weaken the program. UCS experts cautioned that doing so would undermine the very market for zero-emissions vehicles automakers hope to sell.

“Automakers should get behind California’s ZEV proposal,” said Don Anair, a senior engineer in UCS’s Clean Vehicles program who is currently at the LA Auto Show where automakers are unveiling many new electric cars. “Doing otherwise would undercut the significant progress they have made to date on advanced vehicle technologies. An aggressive target will create market certainty for automakers and help to ensure their investments in electric drive become a full-fledged market success.”

Since 1990, the ZEV program has sped the commercialization of the cleanest gasoline cars and hybrid vehicles, helping to bolster public health and consumer choice. Nearly 2 million Californians drive such next-generation vehicles, which emit 80 percent less smog-forming pollution than the average car built in 2002. The ZEV program has also kept research moving on automotive batteries and fuel cells.

“Whether it’s zero-emissions vehicles, the first ever smog standards, or the first-in-the-nation vehicle global warming standards, California has taken the lead on clean cars,” Friedman said. “We’ll continue to push for the state to do more to give car buyers a real choice between the fuel of the past and the clean cars of the future.”

California’s announcement on zero-emissions vehicles also comes as the state outlined plans for 75 percent tighter smog standards for cars and light trucks by 2025, vehicle global warming pollution standards through 2025, and requirements for the installation of hydrogen refueling stations. At the same time, the federal government today proposed its fuel-efficiency and global warming pollution requirements for automakers.

Source: The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

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