Battery EVs Not Included in California Emissions Plans

CARB report says battery-powered cars failed to fulfill their promise.

Published: 06-Mar-2003

The state's ambitious drive to put the battery-powered engine in the car of tomorrow appears headed for the history books after more than a decade of resistance from automakers and little improvement in the technology.

In rewriting rules aimed at ridding unhealthy smog, the California Air Resources Board on Wednesday released a report encouraging nonpolluting hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and relying on increasingly popular gas-electric hybrids that get better mileage and spew less pollution than gasoline-only vehicles.

The proposal, which faces a board vote at the end of the month, is yet another weakening of the nation's toughest requirement for alternative-fuel cars after vigorous opposition from Detroit.

"They've fought batteries pretty much tooth and nail from the beginning," said Jerry Martin, board spokesman.

"It's hard to make rules and enforce regulations when everybody industrywide has a problem with them and feels that they can spend better. They're not saying that with fuel cells."

Environmentalists said the revised report, which sets a new timetable for introducing clean cars and reduces the quota of pollution-free vehicles, was a disappointment.

There was no immediate comment from auto manufacturers.

The board staff report reflects the reality that battery-powered cars -- the only nonpolluting vehicles on the market -- failed to fulfill their promise.

Of the few thousand electric cars on California roads, most are expensive and travel fewer than 100 miles between lengthy charges.

Environmentalists said they hope to at least hold the board to mandating that a certain number of pollution-free vehicles are required by 2009.

"I think this is a midcourse correction," said V. John White, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club. "We're trying to make sure it doesn't turn into a full-scale retreat."

The result is a proposed rule that contains elements of a report last year by the RAND Corp., a nonprofit public policy research organization, that concluded the state would clean its skies sooner by pushing for a cleaner fleet of cars than by demanding a small number of nonpolluting vehicles.

Lloyd Dixon, who wrote the report, said the California Air Resource Board's strict emissions regulations have driven improvements in gasoline-powered cars and limited the need for electric cars.

Under the rules proposed Wednesday, car makers must produce 250 fuel cell vehicles by 2008.

They must have 22,000 hybrid vehicles on the road by 2005 and gradually increase the number to 117,500 by 2009.

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