California Cuts Zero Emission Vehicles 70-79%

Late last week, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) held the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) board meeting previewed in carb_rally_2.jpgKilling the Electric Car Again Part 1 and Part 2. CARB appears to have put on a partially choreographed show.

Agency staff played the role of “bad cop.” Before the meeting they proposed cutting ZEVs by 90%, setting the scene for the Board appointees to play “good cop” and change the cuts to 70%. This allowed CARB to spin it as a tripling in the numbers in their press release:

The Air Resources Board today voted to triple the amount of zero emissions vehicles that staff had proposed for automakers to produce from 2012 through 2014, while directing staff to look at overhauling the program to account for climate
change benefits.

If FCVs with 300-mile range are used, then the cut is actually 79%; only 0.08% of new vehicles would have to be ZEVs.

Some of the board members insisted on playing the role of “bumble cop”, as they seemed to have little understanding of exactly what they were voting on. Even board members who had initially stated they thought the numbers should be increased, not decreased, seemed suddenly to forget those remarks and docilely follow the lead of board member Dr. Daniel Sperling, who near the end flashed up a slide filled with a table of numbers (presumably prepared in advance), and suggested that the board go with only 2,500 (1,785 if 300-mile range) FCVs a year. The board followed 7-0.

During the meeting, over fifty speakers took 3-minute slots explaining to the board why CARB should not retreat on its 8,333 per year mandate for 2012-14 (approximately 0.4% of California vehicle sales). The other dozen or so speakers primarily represented automakers and other interests requesting changes peculiar to their particular situations (issues such as the transition from intermediate to high volume manufacturer status, hydrogen internal combustion engines, and so on).

Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey testified at the CARB meeting on the wastefulness of diverting resources to hydrogen fuel-cell programs and the need to get plug-in cars on the road soon in order to reduce U.S. dependence on oil and to increase national security. Former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Deputy Under Secretary of Education Peter R. Greer, both of whom served under President Ronald Reagan, wrote to Gov. Schwarzenegger imploring him to help get more electric vehicles on the market.

In a bit of drama, former CARB chairman Dr. Robert Sawyer testified in front of the board he once directed, calling for a stronger ZEV program. Dr. Sawyer was appointed to the board by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2005, but then fired by the Governor in 2007. Dr. Sawyer’s firing led to the resignation in protest of CARB Executive Director Catherine Witherspoon. She accused the governor’s aides of blocking efforts to fight global warming, saying “I believe the governor cares deeply about air quality, but no one in his inner circle does.” Dr. Sawyer was replaced by Mary Nichols, who yesterday helped lead the board’s retreat on ZEVs. Governor Schwarzenegger now has the dubious honor of joining Governor Davis in delaying the technology we need to control vehicle emissions.

The ZEV program continues to be a hydrogen fuel cell research program, and not a program to create clean air vehicles. Board Chair Mary Nichols called at the outset of the meeting to not tilt toward one technology, and most of the comments submitted before and during the meeting called for CARB to implement a level playing field between all types of ZEVs–Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs)–but it was not to be. In the end, Chair Nichols and her board simply ignored the issue she had raised and did nothing to provide balance. In fact, Dr. Sperling’s last minute change increased the credits given to long-range FCVs from 5 to 7, compared the program’s maximum BEV credit of 3; CARB remains highly tilted toward hydrogen. Automakers will get the same number of credits from 5,357 FCVs as 12,500 BEVs over three years. These low volumes guarentee that automakers will be able to say that the program is not economic.

If there were any bright notes, they were the vote for transparency in ZEV credits, and that the plug-in hybrids that manufacturers have been talking about recently are now required. However, it is likely that these PHEVs represent vehicles that would have been produced anyway, i.e. CARB seems to be following the market here rather than leading it. The board’s action had the effect of requiring slightly less (19,500 per year) PHEVs than the staff proposal, as they ignored a suggestion from board member Dorene D’Adamo to hold this value constant while reducing staff’s ZEV cuts.

The Board also passed a resolution directing CARB staff to overhaul the ZEV program, which has become a Rube Goldberg contraption in its complexity, with Bronze, Silver, Silver+, and Gold credits for Type o, I, I.5, II, III, and IV ZEVs, PZEVs (cleaner internal combustion engines), AT PZEVs (really hybrids), and Enhanced AT PZEVs (really plug-in hybrids), with carry back and carry forward provisions, and so on. This overhaul is long overdue. However, the board gave staff until December 2009 to create a proposal, which will then have to be reviewed, amended, and approved, and from then it will be many years before the new program can call for any real changes in automakers’ production plans. CARB says the new program is to be ready by 2015, but the new program will not be able to change 2015 volumes, given automaker production schedules.

CARB released its own summary and fact sheet on the changes. These put the best possible spin on the changes.

Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car?, was at the CARB meeting, filming, perhaps for a second documentary.

— Earl Killian

10 Responses to California Cuts Zero Emission Vehicles 70-79%

  1. Andrew says:

    I have read elsewhere and saw on that Chris Paine is filming for another documentary called “Who Saved the Electric Car”….I guess we now know who did Not save it.

  2. Jay Alt says:

    Here is one view of behind-the-scenes actions and dismissals –

  3. Jim Bullis says:

    The “zero emission vehicle” is a meaninful idea in context of reducing the smog in California cities, and others around the world.

    However, it is misleading bordering on fraudulent to pretend that there is such a thing as “zero emission” operation when it comes to CO2.

    I hope the CARB staff goes off and evaluates the climate change effects correctly.

    I wonder if they can find any true data on fuel usage in electric power production as a function of time of day. If anyone knows of such, please let me know.

  4. Earl Killian says:

    Jim Bullis, a recent survey of RAV4-EV drivers found that 47% of them had PV systems on their roofs. Many have systems large enough to drive their electric bill to zero. They can quite legitimately claim their fuel has zero greenhouse gas emissions. The attractiveness of ZEVs is that they are capable of zero emissions of any kind, and as we improve the grid, even those without PV on their roofs will seem their emissions from ZEVs drop to near zero over the next few decades.

  5. Earl Killian says:

    Jay Alt, thank you for that link.

  6. Earl Killian says:

    Jim Bullis, here is some additional data to consider. According to the EPA, the Wells-to-Wheels (WTW) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the 2002 Toyota RAV4-EV is 3.9 tons per year. That is from the U.S. grid, which as often noted is about 49% coal powered. The 2002 Toyota RAV4 2WD automatic (i.e. non-EV) is 8.0 tons WTW according to the same source. Further, California’s electric grid is approximately half the GHG per kWh as the U.S. grid, so the comparison would be more like 2 tons vs. 8 tons, i.e. the EV has one fourth the emissions of a nearly identical gasoline vehicle. Compare driving solo in a RAV4-EV fueled from the California grid at 110g/passenger-mi to Amtrack at 180g/passenger-mi. Moreover, California’s grid is subject to AB32 (a GHG cap that declines over the years) and will get cleaner. California also has a 20% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for 2010, and is currently considering increasing that to 33% by 2020.

  7. Jim Bullis says:

    Earl Killian,

    How much does the PV cost before rebates? I keep looking at this option myself, but have yet to see a low enough cost.

    As far as the grid is concerned, I contend that every electric vehicle plugged in will be charged 100% from coal. All the good, cheap forms of electricity are allready in full use. While the added load could come from natural gas plants, at around $9 per MMBTU for natural gas and around $2 or $3 per MMBTU for coal, it is going to be hard to get a different outcome. Although reasonable people seem to disagree, the reason that PGE charges a lot less for electricity use at night is that they have coal fired capacity to use then. I keep looking for real data on PGE power plant operations as a function of time of day, but have not yet found it.

    You might be interested in the Calpine story. They committed heavily into very efficient natural gas equipment. Their annual report lists their facilities. And they were bankrupted when natural gas went from $2 to $10.

  8. Earl Killian says:

    Jim Bullis, what you contend about EV charging is complete nonsense. For example, in California SB1368 (a law that has been copied in many states) makes it illegal for utilities to enter into long-term contracts for electric power where the GHG exceed the emissions of a baseload natural gas power plant. This effectively made coal without carbon capture and sequestration illegal in California and other adopting states.

    Second, coal plants are mostly baseload electric power. Utilities try to run them at the same power output all the time, except for maintenance shutdowns. Thus incremental load, such as EVs, can only result in additional coal if new plants are built. Right now there is a strong backlash against building new coal power plants. By 2030 we will be closing coal plants around the nation, not opening new ones. Much of this power will be simply unneeded because increases in efficiency will be occurring faster than population growth.

  9. Earl Killian says:

    Jim Bullis, please see the post for factors that determine whether PV is cost-effective or not.

    (I have to omit the currency symbol below, because the comment system truncates posts when it sees one.)
    PV modules are currently about 4/Watt, inverters 1/Watt, and installation is about 4/Watt. The modules are heading rapidly to 2/Watt, with 1/Watt a prospect further down the road as thin-film technologies ramp up in volume. However, all this means is that installation cost will dominate until we make improvements there. Solutions for utility-scale PV are also in the works, and there the installation costs are much lower.

  10. Jim Bullis says:

    Earl Killian,

    You are missing the difference between long term contracts and buying power from the national grid on the spot market, which is not prohibited, no matter what the source, which of course is not identifiable. This is very susceptible to gouging by energy traders. My pessimistic prediction is that our California government will cancel that law when the next power crisis hits. The then sitting governor will be recalled as if it was his fault.

    As to building new coal power plants, yes there is some backlash. I tend to discount the effectiveness of such in the face of a significant cost penalty when other types of power plants are brought on line. One clue is the large unused natural gas capacity that the chart on page 12 of the GM presentation at shows.

    While you are looking at the GM charts, please note that the GM plan makes no mention of improving vehicle efficiency. Their approach seems to be to simply convert their standard fleet to run on energy “carried” by electricity. They fully intend to use the “zero emission” slogan for their electric energy guzzlers.

    Also, the GM charts as well as the GM blogs give a sense of the mood of the country as far as real action against GHG. The latest round of auto shows in the US and Europe also seem to show this attitude. The GM “Volt” is there, I think as a PR gambit, but it is also a foreshadowing of the shift to energy from electric sources.

    I want to be very clear that I am very much in favor of electric car systems. The difference between my approach and GM’s is that I think these cars must be very much more efficient. Then things begin to make sense. For PV solar at 9 dollars/watt, if you really do not need many kwhr to run the car, the cost gets manageable. In the car concept I am developing you could go 80 mph and still get 200 mpg. The Aptera car concept is similarly efficient, and they are actually running these on the road. I am a little behind in the race to get to market, but seriously trying.