- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 20, 2002

In the early 1990s, California's legislature decided that, by 2003, each automaker would have to sell a certain number of zero-emissions vehicles along with conventional cars and trucks. Engineering and economic realities didn't matter. A mere legislative snap of the fingers, and viable electric cars (which are the only alternative fuel vehicles remotely close to being usable that qualify as "zero emissions" vehicles) would simply appear, beginning with the 2003 models. Ten years later, electric cars still aren't ready.
They are very expensive relative to conventional cars, have "best case" ranges of less than 100 miles before needing to be recharged for several hours and are typically very small. Despite these very real obstacles to commercial and consumer acceptance, the zero emissions/electric vehicle mandate looms on the horizon.
And what if automakers build them but the public doesn't buy? The question is particularly pertinent since the mandate calls for each manufacturer to eventually produce a volume of electric vehicles equivalent to 10 percent of all the conventional cars and trucks each of them sells in the state of California. The economics of the mandate are considerable.
Since the practical effect of California's zero-emissions law conflicts with federal fuel efficiency laws, the Justice Department is challenging it in federal appeals court. "The Energy Policy and Conservation Act provides that when a federal fuel economy standard is in effect, a state or a political subdivision of a state may not adopt or enforce a law or regulation related to fuel economy standards," the Justice Department argues in a 37-page filing. California vows to fight the feds, contending that its law is more about air quality than fuel economy.
The automakers, meanwhile, managed to get a court injunction that would delay enforcement of the zero-emissions quota for two years. But, even looking down the road to 2005, a practical, electric family car is nowhere near becoming a reality no matter how hard the California legislature might try to wish it into existence.



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