Sierra Club Urges California To Prioritize BEVs


There’s power in numbers, so Plug In America likes to work in coalition with like-minded organizations whenever possible. Some of our board members also play active roles in other organizations. Here’s the latest example of the kind of synergy this creates.

On October 18, 2009 Sierra Club California (the Club’s largest chapter) formally adopted the following resolution urging large-scale adoption of battery-electric Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEV). The vote in the Club’s Regional Conservation Committee (the Club’s regional “policy parliament” representing 13 chapters and 200,000 members in California and Nevada) was 48-0 (one abstention).

“RESOLVED: To rapidly achieve needed levels of well-to-wheels greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emission reductions, it is essential to promote ZEV technology based upon near-term commercial viability as well as scalability, cost, energy efficiency and other performance standards. Sierra Club urges the State to implement regulations and devote resources to promote the large-scale adoption of battery-electric light-duty vehicles and installation of charging infrastructure. This does not imply abandoning funding for research and development of other promising technologies.”

That last sentence was tacked on after much internal debate about whether the resolution should specifically criticize the way the State has favored hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles over battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and whether any mention of the limitations of hydrogen vehicles might doom fuel-cell bus programs favored by some Club members.

The resolution came out of the chapter’s Climate and Energy Committee, which recognizes that BEVs are the only alternative vehicle technology with a prayer of significantly reducing transportation greenhouse gas emissions in the foreseeable future. (Disclosure: I serve on that Committee as well as Plug In America’s board of directors.)

The Club’s action is timely. Staff at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are hard at work on a planned revision of its ZEV regulations, part of a grand overhaul in 2010 that will consolidate the ZEV program (reducing pollutants from vehicles) with Pavley II (reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles) and the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards. CARB must also consider the goals and targets in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, which includes liquid fuels and natural gas.

It’s important that CARB not repeat its mistakes of 2003 and 2008, when it gave automakers a pass on producing significant numbers of BEVs if they leased a handful of fuel-cell vehicles. The 2003 changes allowed car companies to destroy thousands of BEVs, as seen in the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car Unfortunately, the same key players on CARB who pushed for those changes still sit on the board.

Sierra Club California plans to send letters to CARB, the California Energy Commission, and California legislators urging strong incentives and requirements to get BEVs on the road a.s.a.p. We all need to speak up early in this process. Plug In America will be letting our supporters know how you can help. Stay tuned.



Posted by Sherry Boschert, Plug In America board member and author, Plug-in Hybrids: The Cars That Will Recharge America

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