Cutting the Cord
Fuel cells and hybrids are hot; electric vehicles are not. That’s the word from the California Air Resources Board, which yesterday axed groundbreaking 1990 rules requiring auto manufacturers to sell a fixed number of electric vehicles (EVs) in the state, including 10 percent of cars sold this year. Instead, the board approved more modest regulations that will force car companies to put a set number of fuel-cell and hybrid vehicles on the roads over the next 10 years. Jerry Martin, spokesperson for the board, said the change reflects shifting technologies, not shifting priorities: “Fuel cells are really just another sort of electric car. We have never shown a preference for a technology. We just want zero-emission vehicles.” Environmentalists had mixed feelings about the change, as did automakers, which are glad to see the EV rule go but aren’t so happy to have alternate quotas and deadlines in its place. The new rules will require manufacturers to produce 250 fuel-cell vehicles by 2008, rising to 25,000 by 2014, as well as 420,000 gas-electric hybrids by 2011 and 3.4 million “partially zero-emission vehicles” (that’s wonk speak for really, really low-polluting cars) by 2010.