Mary Nichols, CARB, on the ZEV conference

Mary Nichols, Chairperson, California Air Resources Board (CARB), spoke at the National Hydrogen Association conference in Sacramento, CA.

I have taken parts of her speech and her interview with me after the speech, and broken them up into relevant subjects.

This video is about the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) debate held a couple of weeks ago in California. As one person told me, “CARB managed to piss everyone off at that debate”, which usually means that everyone had to compromise in some fashion.

From what I could decipher, the ZEV people weren’t happy that all cars were not going to be electric, that some cars that were going to count as ZEV were plug-in electric and some would be fuel cell vehicles.

Batteries, plug-ins, fuel-cells, oh my!

Nichols was in the unenviable position of having to tell the Birkenstocks that they were going to have to share the playing field with the new boys in town: that advanced technology with barely pronounceable names would be included in the granola section of automobiles.

Nichols said the new regulations say that between 2012-2014 there will be 5,357 long-range fuel cell vehicles. CARB also created a new category called silver plus, not to be confused with the silver bullet Budweiser used as a commercial. No, our political appointees have used the carbon-foot program that airlines use: the more you fly the closer to gold you get, the further miles your car can go on one fill the closer to gold you get. The silver plus starts at 300 miles per fill.

This is not a case of when pigs fly, the Honda FCX Clarity gets around 270 miles to the fill. I’m betting that my friends at Honda are negotiating that number and tweaking their machine.

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Nichols also addressed the issue that is frustrating many an auto manufacturer. California has promised a hydrogen highway that spans the entire state, with hydrogen filling stations every so many miles. This has not happened. General Motors and Honda are rolling out fuel-cell vehicles that can only be driven in localized areas, because the energy (hydrogen) can’t be found.

 

Nichols didn’t address whether those profit-producing oil, er, I mean, energy companies would be required to allow hydrogen or battery chargers in their stations. This doesn’t mean that she didn’t address the issue at the ZEV conference, it’s just something I noticed and forgot to ask her about afterwards.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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