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
AC Propulsion had both of their T-Zero prototypes on display. These two
high performance electric powered sports cars
quickly became the center of
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
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
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
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.
ZEV Mandate story
CLARIFICATION OF ZEV MANDATE
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
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
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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