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Progress on California's Zero Emission Vehicles Program

UPDATE: The ZEV mandate is a technology forcing regulation and has stimulated developments that have given consumers more options.

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May 31, 2007

Gennet Paauwe
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Karen Caesar
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ARB Hears Progress Report on Technology for Zero Emission Vehicles

San Diego -The California Air Resources Board (ARB) heard the results of a year-long analysis on the state of Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) technology. This ZEV Technology Review is part of ARB's ongoing strategy to eliminate passenger vehicle emissions that threaten the health and welfare of California's public.

"The Zero Emission Vehicle requirements are technology forcing regulations and are producing the development of zero and very low emission vehicles," said Dr. Robert Sawyer, ARB's Chairperson. "The Board asked for this assessment to stay current with advances in the technology and to assure that that progress is matching our ZEV implementation schedule. The rollout is progressing very well and manufacturers are providing their required vehicle quotas according to the program's timeline."

The ZEV Technology Review describes the results of the Independent Expert Panel's (IEP) investigation. The IEP, made up of five experts, looked at three key ZEV areas: battery energy storage, hydrogen storage, and fuel cells. In the course of its work members of the panel visited sites worldwide and were given wide support and access to confidential manufacturer information. The IEP also focused on the ability of car manufacturers to commercialize these advances into production vehicles.

The IEP was able to project the short and long term prospects for a number of advanced technologies ranging from hybrid and plug in hybrids to fuel cell and battery electric vehicles. Overall the study found that while progress is continuing and consumer acceptance of "bridge" technologies such as hybrid vehicles is encouraging, significant research and investment is still needed to fully realize the mass commercialization of ZEVs. The ARB did not change the ZEV regulations today but directed staff to integrate the information into adaptive changes that would reinforce the success of the ZEV effort. Such proposals would be considered later this year.

The full report and biographies of the expert panel may be found here.

In 1990 the ARB adopted regulations that required auto manufacturers to offer California vehicles with zero evaporative and tailpipe emissions as part of the state's low-emission vehicle program. The regulation stipulated that in 1998, two percent of the vehicles that large manufacturers produced for sale in California must be ZEVs; increasing to five percent in 2001 and ten percent in 2003.

Since its inception, the program has been modified on several occasions to better reflect the pace of technological development and the costs and realities of the marketplace. These revisions maintained the integrity of the program while adapting to technological and economic realities that hampered ZEVs from being offered for sale in California.

The ZEV mandate is a technology forcing regulation and has stimulated developments that have given consumers more options. Now a variety of vehicles are available that match the needs of drivers while being extremely low or non-emitting. Fuel Cell Vehicles are being made and demonstrated in California. And many vehicles are using hybrid systems to improve performance, and advanced battery technologies are being used in applications far beyond motor vehicles.

As with all control measures passed, ARB regularly reviews their implementation and the technological and economic environment within which industry operates. This assures that the means to control harmful emissions is within industry's grasp and the levels of required limits are reviewed and reduced as technology advances. To that end the ARB board directed staff to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the progress of ZEV technology. Today's report is the culmination of that research.

No changes to the ZEV regulation were considered.

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.

Topics emphasized include:

  • On-vehicle hydrogen storage technologies
  • Automotive fuel cell technologies, including balance of plant components
  • Batteries (both power and energy)
  • Electric drive systems, and
  • ZEV-appropriate vehicle platforms (“ground-up” vs. “conversion” ZEV design considerations)
Information is being collected by soliciting responses to a confidential questionnaire that was developed by the Panelists, and through site visits and communications with all of the key sources, including the leading developers of the components as well as the major automobile manufacturers.

Site visits include:

  • US and European Automakers: Ford, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen
  • Japanese Automakers: Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota
  • Japanese Battery Manufacturers: Panasonic EV Energy (PEVE), Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Hitachi
  • U.S. Battery Manufacturers: Cobasys, JCI/Saft
  • Canadian Battery Manufacturers: Electrovaya
  • European Battery Manufacturers: Saft / Renault, ZEBRA / MES-DEA
  • U.S. Fuel Cell Stack Manufacturers: UTC
  • Canadian Fuel Cell Stack Manufacturers: Ballard
As a supplement to the work of the Expert Review Panel, ARB is holding a 2 ½ day ZEV Technology Symposium on September 25 - 27, 2006 in Sacramento, CA. The Symposium will invite a variety of presentations from experts in the industry, and will provide an opportunity for public comment. More information on this event is found at:


Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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