The battle rages over the ZEV mandate
By Noel Adams

The morning of May 31 was cool and overcast as opposing groups gathered in Diamond Bar, at the California Air Resource Board (CARB) ZEV workshop. This would be their final opportunity to express opinions about California's Zero Emissions (ZEV) Mandate before it's reviewed in September.

By 8am the parking lot of the SCAQMD office was full of EVs. Most of their owners had taken time off work to travel to the ZEV workshop. Alexandra Paul, best known for her role as Lt. Stephany Holdan on Baywatch, arrived in her 1999 EV1. Like many of the EV drivers she did not come to appear before the board; she came to show her support for the continuation of the mandate.

I counted fourteen EV1s, and at least as many RAV4 EVs. There were a large group of Honda EV Pluses, five Nissan Altras, one Chrysler EPIC and one Ford Ranger. I even saw a converted VW Rabbit and someone was there with a Zappy.

AC Propulsion had both of their T-Zero prototypes on display. These two high performance electric powered sports cars
quickly became the center of attention, as
EV enthusiasts admired their sleek lines.

A little before 9am everyone gathered around a podium for a brief press conference conducted by the American Lung Association. They presented statistics about the toll that the pollution from automobiles was taking on the lungs of Southern California residents.

This was reinforced by Roland Hwang from the Union of Concerned Scientists who showed a Honda Accord enclosed in a plastic tent. He invited anyone who thought that auto emissions were safe to spend some time in the tent with the engine running. He had no takers.

The most disappointing thing about the press conference was the lack of interest shown by the Media. There was no television coverage and only one local radio station, KNX 1070, showed up and covered the event.

With the press conference over, everyone moved into the auditorium and the testimony began.

On one side of the debate were the automobile manufacturers and on the other side were the EV drivers. The manufacturer's case was quite simple; there is no market for EVs. They presented a number of facts to support the contention that they had tried to market Electric Vehicles but people did not want them. The EV drivers presented evidence to refute these statements.

Ken Stewart, the EV1 brand manager from GM, came to tell the CARB board how they had attempted to sell EV1s in California and had Failed. He talked about a program they had tried through Southern California Edison. They had offered favorable leases for the EV1 to Edison employees. He told the assembly that they had tried the program twice with only one person leasing during their first attempt and none from their second. He also stated that GM had spent more to market the EV1 than on any other comparable car.

Margaret Cheng told us how she had been the one person who had leased an EV1 through the Southern California Edison program. She told us that the program had been started in 1995 but by the time vehicles were delivered in December 1996, everyone else had lost interest. For the second attempt, people had a choice between a variety of EVs from different manufacturers. Everyone had chosen a 4 seat EV over the 2 seat EV1.

The EV drivers brought in an Advertising consultant to discus the GM advertising campaign for the EV1. He talked at great length about why, in his opinion, this campaign had been ineffective. He went through the various adverts, both those appearing in the press and those that were run on television, explaining why he thought each had not been effective. His conclusion was that these adverts had not been designed to sell cars.

The manufacturers brought in Kenneth Train, a researcher from Berkley who had been funded by Toyota and GM. He had conducted a poll of California vehicle owners to determine what they would be willing to pay to purchase an EV instead of one with an internal combustion engine (ICE). He said that his study indicated that the average driver would only buy an EV if it cost $28,000 less than the comparable ICE vehicle.

I saw a puzzled expression on the face of one of board members. He asked if, as the average price for a Toyota RAV4 was $21,000, this would mean that Toyota would need to pay people $7,000 to drive one of their EVs. Kenneth Train looked a little embarrassed when he admitted that it did.

Other presenters appeared from Ford, Toyota and Honda. They all echoed much of what GM had said. There was no market for EVs. People were just not willing to put up with the limited range. Batteries capable of supplying sufficient range are too expensive in small quantities so making small numbers of Electric Vehicles could not be profitable.

Two fleet managers, one from Warner Brothers the other from Xpress Shuttle, talked about their experiences attempting to acquire electric vehicles.

Warner Brothers tried to get EVs for their fleet and had called all the major automobile manufacturers. They all had much the same response. GM told them that they had no EV1s available but they could be placed on a waiting list for re-lease. Honda said the same thing but pointed out that the chances of a re-lease were slim, as customers were not giving up their vehicles. Chrysler also had no vehicles available. Ford, Nissan and Toyota all said that they had sold all the vehicles they were going to make this year but offered their City EVs as an alternative. City Electric Vehicles are not designed for freeway use and have limited range so they are not suitable for most fleet applications. The Warner Brother's fleet still doesn't include electric vehicles.

The representative from Xpress shuttle gave details about their use of EPIC mini-vans at LAX. He told the board that this operation used fast charging to keep vehicles on the road. The operation was profitable but they could not get the EVs they needed to expand the program. They wanted more EPICs for their LAX operation and also wished to add them to their San Diego and Salt Lake City fleets. Chrysler told them they did not have plans to produce any additional vehicles this year.

Greg Hanssen, known for driving his EV1 on long trips including one from Santa Monica California to Hilton Head South Carolina, spoke about the need to educate the public. He told the board that questions EV drivers were constantly being asked indicated that the general public was unaware of both the availability and capability of the modern EV. He urged the board to increase spending on EV education.

In the afternoon, the battery panel discussed its findings. It was obvious that they were experts in this field, which added a great deal of weight to their conclusion that the current NiMH batteries were adequate for many applications. They also expressed the opinion that facilities could be ready for volume production in 2003 and that costs would come down as volume increased.

They did seem to have a bias towards the NiMH battery. Their contention that the LiIon and Li Polymer batteries would not be ready for 2003 seemed a little odd considering that Nissan is already using LiIon in its vehicles. Many of the EV drivers in the audience were disappointed with they way they dismissed the Panasonic Lead Acid battery, given great improvement in the range of the EV1 after these batteries were installed.

The team from AC Propulsion, billing themselves as the only manufacturer at the meeting who actually wanted to sell EVs, asked the board to reconsider its position on Lead Acid Batteries. It appears that the board will look further into this before the final decision on the mandate in September.

Michael Kobb testified about his six-month odyssey to lease an EV1. He told the board how he had to track down a dealership; make an appointment for a limited test drive; and wait for a week until an EV specialist contacted him to tell him that he would be placed on a waiting list. He described how he had to jump through hoops to get a charger installed and take delivery of a vehicle when, after six months, one became available.

Citing GM testimony that indicated they had deliberately limited supply while they studied the batteries, he asked how they could plead "no demand" when supply had been artificially limited.

Alec Proudfoot, one of the AeroVirnoment engineers who worked on the original Impact prototype, talked about the true progress of electric vehicles. He contended that the total amount of money spent on development of electric vehicles by the Automobile Manufacturers was small compared with the two billion dollars regularly spent to create a new SUV. He pointed out that most of the manufacturers had merely converted existing vehicles to electric propulsion. Only GM and Honda designed electric vehicles from scratch.

To demonstrate his belief that the manufacturers had not been serious about developing electric vehicles he presented the board with a group of questions; where is the aerodynamic 4 door, 5-passenger sedan?; where is the onboard charging?; where is the charging standard?; where is fast charging?; where is the market commitment?; and where are the serial hybrids?. Finally he called for a strengthening of the mandate.

It seems like the EV drivers won this round. They got the board to agree to a further review of the Panasonic batteries. They made effective rebuttals to every point in the Automaker's arguments and provided powerful testimony that availability not lack of interest was the reason that more EVs had not been sold. We will have to wait until September, when CARB issues its final ruling on the ZEV Mandate, to find out who won the war.


There have been approx. 2300 EVs leased in California since EVs were introduced in 1997. With a few exceptions most automakers made only the number of EVs required under the MOA with CARB. So it wasn't an honest effort to market the cars. And they stopped prduction this year -- thinking that they would be successful in overturning the regulation.

To determine how many ZEVs will be required in 2003, do NOT assume 10% of the approx. 1.5 million cars sold in Califonria; that will give you an inaccurate number.(150,000) Due to CARB's complicated credit system for different types of advanced bartteries and early introduction of EVs, the number of required vehicles in 2003 is closer to 22,000. And it could be as low as 6,000 if every automaker made an advanced battery vehicle with more than 100 miles range available starting this year. Now, that won't happen because it will take them time to re-start their production lines. But the point is, it's a very reasonable number. And it's nowhere near the 4% pure ZEV requirement, because of the extra credit system.


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