The California Air Resources Board (CARB) agreed today to significantly cut the number of electric vehicles that car manufacturers are required to sell. The new plan allows carmakers to produce as few as 7,500 zero-emission vehicles over the next four years, down from the previous, more ambitious target of 25,000. More than 50,000 so-called advanced technology partial ZEVs, including plug-in hybrids and compressed natural gas vehicles, would make up for the cutback in the pure ZEV requirement, the board decided.
Critics suspect that even that target number will be slashed at some point down the road. “That’s a body blow to the ZEV program,” said Zan Dubin Scott of Plug In America, an EV advocacy group.
CARB board member Daniel Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC-Davis, told Wired magazine that it might be time to scrap the program altogether. “I’m going to make a resolution at some point that we overhaul this program completely,” he said. “Start from scratch.”
The original goal of California’s zero-emission mandate, which was enacted in 1990, was to require 10 percent of the nearly 1 million new vehicle sales in the state to be all-electric by 2003. For California to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent of 1990 level by 2050, it must have nearly 400,000 zero emission vehicles on the road by 2020, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The Air Resources Board insists that it is committed to zero-emission electric vehicles, but believes that lithium ion hybrids and plug-in hybrids are currently more viable based on the technology available to automakers. The renewed debate comes just as Tesla begins production on its electric roadster, Chevy readies the Volt for 2010, and Mitsubishi tests the iMiEV in Japan with intentions for a U.S. debut next year. Other carmakers, including Nissan and Subaru, also have EV projects in development.