Funds Need Directed From Fuel Cells to Plug-In Cars

Plug Ins will deliver greenhouse gas reductions five years earlier than fuel cell vehicles.

Published: 10-Dec-2009

In a push to accelerate the use of clean vehicles, Plug In America is urging state air regulators to immediately redirect resources and funding toward Electric Vehicles (EV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), thousands of which are slated for delivery in less than 12 months, and away from fuel cell vehicles.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is meeting today to discuss proposed changes to its Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) regulation which are designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% and 80% by 2020 and 2050, respectively.

But the flawed revisions, contained in a White Paper, highlight CARB’s unbalanced spending priorities, which allocate more than 75% of staff and program funding toward development of fuel cell vehicles. Even in a best-case scenario, this technology will not reach the market for more than five years, according to CARB itself.

Just as world leaders meeting in Copenhagen realize the imperative of taking swift action to fight climate change, so must the state air board prioritize support for the clean vehicles that are closest to showroom delivery, says Plug In America legislative director Jay Friedland.

“We cannot afford to wait for far-off, hypothetical technologies which may or may not contribute to real GHG reductions,” Friedland says. “We urge the board to immediately reallocate its ZEV program resources so that at least 75% of its funding supports development and commercialization of EV and PHEV technologies and charging infrastructure. This will put more vehicles on the road sooner and accelerate consumer acceptance.”

Thousands of plug-in vehicles manufactured by GM, Nissan and Tesla are scheduled for delivery by November 2010. Tens of thousands more such vehicles by these and other major automakers are expected in 2011.

CARB, whose initial regulations helped to catapult gas-free cars into consumers’ garages, has an opportunity to regain a leadership position, says Plug In America president Dan Davids.

“Major automakers will be delivering plug-ins to showrooms soon,” Davids says. “The question is whether CARB will play a significant role in accelerating the inevitable proliferation and success of these vehicles."

CARB’s ZEV White Paper was crafted by its staff in an ongoing effort to overhaul the regulation by late 2010.

Plug In America rejects the staff’s assertion that all-electric vehicles are “limited by vehicle range, weight, and cost” and will likely be adopted as compact cars for urban use only. These assumptions ignore the changes in consumer preferences that are expected once the vehicles arrive in showrooms, as well as improvements in fast-charging infrastructure and battery technology now underway.

In fact, Japan’s Nikkei News reported last week that Nissan’s 2015 vehicles will use a battery with double the capacity of its new Leaf EV at the same cost. GM has stated that is second-generation Chevy Volt battery will cost as little as $185-per-kilowatt hour compared to an estimated $700-per-kilowatt hour in the first Volts the company ships.

Meanwhile, several private companies are competing to dominate the public-charging station market and a trade group representing most of the nation's electric utilities has pledged to aggressively create the infrastructure to support full-scale commercialization and deployment of plug-ins. Plug In America has been protesting CARB’s drastic reductions in funding and support for plug-in vehicles for more than six years. "We can only imagine where we would be if electric car development had continued after 2003, rather than being subject to a five-year hiatus chasing after fuel-cell vehicle technology that continues to be delayed," Davids says.

About Plug In America: Plug In America is leading the nation’s plug-in vehicle movement. The nonprofit organization works to accelerate the shift to plug-in vehicles powered by clean, affordable, domestic electricity to reduce our nation's dependence on petroleum and improve the global environment. For more information: http://www.pluginamerica.org.

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