Now is the time for car manufacturers to step up and help California mitigate the effects of wildfires and earthquakes.

The Energy Resilient Vehicle (Part 2)

California has always been on the forefront of helping car manufacturers to introduce climate friendly technology in their vehicles.

A. The Story of smog and the Catalytic Converter in California 

The first episodes of ‘smog’ occurred in Los Angeles in the summer of 1943. It got worse the following decades to the point where it was outright dangerous to your health to be outside when the bad smog events occurred. 

California then in 1966 established the first tailpipe emissions standards in the nation. In 1967 the California Air Resource Board (CARB) was established, to attain and maintain healthy air quality; and to provide innovative approaches for complying with air pollution rules and regulations.

The catalytic converter became standard equipment on most new vehicles starting in 1975 and was mandatory by 1981, when it was fitted to vehicles for sale in the United States, enabling them to meet newly introduced emission regulations.

The Catalytic Converter mandated in 1981

The car manufacturers originally objected to the:

  1. cost ($thousand+)
  2. weight
  3. volume
  4. performance (reduced miles per gallon)

added to the car but eventually rose to the challenge and incorporated the catalytic converters.

B. The Story of CO2 emission and the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) in California

The Zero Emission Vehicle program was first adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 1990. The purpose of the ZEV program was to meet California’s health based air quality standards and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and move the cars away from petroleum based fuel. This would reduce smog-causing pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions of passenger vehicles in California. 

The ZEV regulation is designed to achieve the state’s long-term emission reduction goals by requiring auto manufacturers to offer for sale specific numbers of the very cleanest cars available. These vehicle technologies include full battery-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles. The ZEV regulation is part of the broader Advanced Clean Cars package of regulations, a set of tailpipe regulations put in place to limit smog-forming and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and combat climate change.

The following is a quote from the CARB homepage:  

How the ZEV Regulation Works 

Auto manufacturers are required to produce a number of ZEVs and plug-in hybrids each year, based on the total number of cars sold in California by the manufacturer. Manufacturers with higher overall sales of all vehicles are required to make more ZEVs. Requirements are in terms of percent credits, ranging from 4.5 percent in 2018 to 22 percent by 2025. Auto manufacturers are to produce vehicles and each vehicle receives credits based on its electric driving range. The more range a vehicle has, the more credit it receives. Credits not needed for compliance in any given year can be banked for future use, traded, or sold to other manufacturers. CARB releases annual credit bank balances each year, as well as the total number of vehicles produced for that model year, as well as the total number of ZEVs and plug-in hybrids.”

Carmakers that didn’t comply could be fined $5,000 per credit not produced, though CARB has yet to levy a penalty.

The ZEV program is largely credited for incentivizing the car manufactures to introduce Zero Emission Vehicles (battery, fuel cell, hybrid plug-in) in California.

The car manufacturers have introduced ZEV in California – there are currently around 650,000 ZEVs – even in the light of the following issues:

  1. cost ($ten thousands+)
  2. weight (EVs are heavier than similar ICEs)
  3. volume (batteries taking up a lot of space. but also reducing space because no ICE drive train)
  4. performance (reduced range per fuel stop)


C. To Sum It Up

The car manufacturers adopted their cars to help California cope first with reduction of smogs with the incorporation of the catalytic converter and are now helping California in its efforts to meet its climate goal of carbon neutrality by 2045 by the introduction of Zero Emission Vehicles.

In the next blog (3) we will explore how the car manufacturers should help California mitigate the effects of wildfires – The Energy Resilient Vehicle.