Driving Emissions to Zero

Are the Benefits of California's Zero Emission Vehicle Program Worth the Costs?

by Lloyd Dixon, Isaac R. Porche III, Jonathan Kulick


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California's Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program requires that starting in 2003, a proportion of the new vehicles delivered for sale in the state must produce no emissions. This study examines the costs and emission benefits of battery-powered electric vehicles, direct hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, and other advanced technology vehicles, such gasoline hybrid electric vehicles, that manufacturers may use to satisfy program requirements. The authors find that the cost of battery-powered electric vehicles per ton of emissions reduced is very high and not likely to fall to reasonable levels any time soon, and that it is too early to tell whether direct hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, which show much promise, are an economical way to improve California's air quality. The study also evaluates California's goal of reducing the emissions of the state's light-duty vehicle fleet to zero. It finds that federal air quality standards can be met without a zero emission fleet and that lower-cost alternatives for improving air quality appear available. The authors conclude that instead of requiring manufacturers to meet emission reduction targets with particular vehicle technologies, California should eliminate the requirement for zero emission vehicles, tighten emission standards on light-duty vehicles, and focus on setting emission performance standards.

Table of Contents

  • Preface PDF

  • Summary PDF

  • Acknowledgements

    Acknowledgments PDF

  • Abbreviations PDF

  • Chapter 1

    California's Air Pollution Problem and the ZEV Program PDF

  • Chapter 2

    Ozone Reduction Plan for the South Coast Air Basin PDF

  • Chapter 3

    Technologies for Meeting ZEV Program Requirements and Production Volume Estimates PDF

  • Chapter 4

    Vehicle Production and Lifecycle Cost PDF

  • Chapter 5

    Emission Benefits of Vehicles That Satisfy ZEV Program Requirements PDF

  • Chapter 6

    Cost-Effectiveness of ZEVs and Partial Zero Emission Vehicles PDF

  • Chapter 7

    Conclusions and Policy Recommendations PDF

  • Appendix PDF

  • References PDF

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's Corporate Division and RAND Science and Technology.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.