What is a ZEV?

ZEV stands for zero-emission vehicle and is a quick way of referring to the California ZEV rule, adopted as part of the 1990 Low Emission Vehicle Program by the California Air Resources Board (ARB).

What kinds of vehicles count as ZEVs?

ZEVs include battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs).

Automakers have made enormous investments to promote ZEV technologies and produce a variety of models for sale.

Manufacturers are spending tens of billions of dollars on R&D, to modify assembly plants, and to produce and promote ZEV vehicles.

There are 32 different ZEV-qualifying models currently on the road in California. 7 more are expected by MY 2018. Dozens more are in the production pipeline – projected to be over 70 models by MY 2021.

ZEVs of all different shapes and sizes – mini-compacts, two-seaters, subcompacts, compacts, midsize and large sedans, station wagons, SUVs, mini-vans – are in the market today with both two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive options.

The current problem is that there are not enough ZEV customers yet.

While the number of ZEV-qualifying battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and fuel cell electric vehicles has substantially expanded these past several years, ZEV sales have stagnated to around 3 to 4 percent of the market.

California ZEV Market

Aggressive pricing of ZEVs by automakers has not helped boost sales.

Increasing the number of ZEVs with a more stringent mandate doesn’t solve the problem.

What government can do to work with automakers to meet California’s goals: What government can do to work with automakers to meet California’s goals:

Fully fund ZEV sales incentives like Clean Vehicle Rebates and establish long-term HOV lane access.

Invest in ZEV infrastructure to build more charging/refueling stations. No one will buy a car if they cannot fuel it.

Lower ZEV fueling costs.
In many parts of California, it costs more to refuel a ZEV than it does its gasoline equivalent.

Help build customer awareness and confidence. Few consumers are willing to change over to ZEVs if they are unfamiliar with their benefits.

Model-specific and brand advertising won’t solve the problem alone. While 90 percent of buyers reported doing specific product research before stepping into a dealership, 86 percent of shoppers are likely to have picked in advance the type of fuel their vehicle will run on well before beginning the car search process.

A comprehensive consumer education effort – similar to California’s Flex Your Power campaign – would increase customer awareness of ZEV technologies and their benefits, range, and options long before consumers begin the actual new car search process.