New Low-Polluting Cars to Hit U.S. Showrooms Next Month

There are low-emission vehicles (LEVs), ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEVs), super-ultra-low-emission vehicles (SULEVs), and the holy grail of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). As if the clean-car world weren’t baffling enough, now there’s a new acronym to add to this alphabet soup — partial zero-emission vehicles (PZEVs), which Ford and Toyota will begin selling across the U.S. next month. They’re not quite non-polluting, but they’re getting closer. PZEVs look and perform like standard cars — they’ve just got a couple hundred dollars worth of equipment that makes them markedly cleaner. Ford’s first PZEV model will be a Focus, starting at $14,915. Five other automakers are also producing PZEVs, but only for California, which has stricter air-pollution rules than the rest of the country. Still, analysts believe the trend will go national. “It’s only a matter of time before essentially all gasoline-fueled passenger cars and light trucks are PZEVs,” says Tom Austin of Sierra Research in Sacramento.