In 1990, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) established the zero-emission-vehicles (ZEV) program to meet health-based air-quality goals. Since then, four north-eastern American states have decided to adopt California's LEV program (including the ZEV program) in place of less stringent federal tailpipe standards. Those states are Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and New York.

The ZEV program was designed to catalyze the commercialization of advanced-technology vehicles that would not have any tailpipe or evaporative emissions. Originally, the ZEV program required that 2 percent of new vehicles produced for sale in 1998 and 10 percent of new vehicles produced for sale in 2003 would be zero emission vehicles. Automakers convinced CARB that they could not meet the 1998 deadline. They also opposed the 2003 requirements. Fortunately for the environmentalists, the CARB rejected automaker lobbying. The 2003 requirements will go into effect on schedule with some modifications set in place for differing vehicle technology. In California, the amount of emission released, both by increased car number and increased distance travelled, will increase in years to come. Conventional gasoline-powered vehicles will never be pollution-free, no matter the technological evolution of tailpipes. It is hoped that widespread use of zero emission cars would reduce smog-forming exhaust in the Los Angeles area 30% by 2020, air officials say.

The only cars on the market today that are true zero-emission vehicles are battery-powered electric vehicles as they emit no pollution from the tailpipe and can be zero emission from their power source if they recharge using clean, renewable energy. Fuel cell vehicles that are powered by hydrogen fuel are currently in the development stages and will also qualify as true ZEVs.

It is interesting to note that the CARB's refusal to compromise on their plans come at a time when California is reeling from devastating supply shortages due to a long-term neglect of rising electricity demands. California current imports over 20% of its electricity from neighboring states. The CARB insists, without basis, that their decisions would not have an impact on supply problems, even as Gray Davis is refusing to construct new power plants in California.

The board's decision also ignores scientific fact. David Hermance, executive engineer of environmental engineering at Toyota Technical Center at Gardena California, stated: "The board's action doesn't repeal the laws of economics or physics.". ZEV's are hideously expensive and there is no market for them, not even the 2% that the CARB demands. The only way the CARB standards can be satisfied is with massive subsidization, and that would require a huge hike in taxes.

Technological barriers prevent cost-effective ZEV's, specifically the battery. Over the years automotive engineers have tried many different technologies including advanced lead acid, nickel iron, lithium ion, sodium sulfur, zinc nickel oxide and nickel-metal hydride. But not one can satisfy the three demands of energy density, longetivity and quick recharge times. To manufacture affordable EV's, battery costs must be lowered to $150 per kWH (U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium). Currently, nickel-metal hydride, the most promising technology, costs around $1,000 per kWH, or around $30,000 per battery pack.

The CARB caved in the environmental lobbies and insisted on impossible standards. Currently, automakers plan to circumvent the standards by selling low-usage ZEV's such as golf carts and tour trains, even though they will be sold at a 50% loss, while waiting to present technological testimony to the CARB in an effort to repeal the economically impossible decrees.

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