But the auto makers remain unconvinced. They contend that consumers in 1998 will still be faced with cars that can travel no more than 100 miles between chargings, and they want California's deadline eased.
"Our goal today is to show the technological advancement of the Ecostar--without lending the impression that electric cars have arrived," Dennis Wilkie, a Ford electric vehicle executive, said carefully in Santa Monica the day before one of the electric mini-vans was turned over to Edison.
Times staff writer Donald W. Nauss in Detroit contributed to this report.
Electric Car Incentives
The California Electric Transportation Coalition estimated how financial incentives for electric car purchase might work. With incentives, the utility group concluded, the GM Impact--a sporty two-seat electric car-- would cost only $3,700 more than a well-equipped 1994 Mazda Miata.
GM Impact Mazda Miata Estimated cost $30,000 $20,000 Incentives: Federal income tax credit -$3,000 State income tax credit -1,000 State sales tax credit -775 Utility rebate (proposed) -1,500 Total incentives -6,275 Net cost $23,725 $20,000
Source: California Electric Transportation Coalition.
Planning for an Electric Future On Nov. 1, the state's four big investor-owned utilities submitted proposals to the Public Utilities Commission for spending almost $600 million in ratepayer funds to underwrite the introduction of electric and other low-emission vehicles. Emission-free vehicles--most likely electric cars--must be available in California showrooms by 1998. Low-emission vehicles--which can include cars and trucks that run on natural gas--also must be introduced over the next decade.
Spending plans, 1995-2000 (in millions of dollars):
Southern California Edison Co.
* Up to $1,500 per car to offset cost of batteries: $68.6
* Power distribution changes; at-home recharging plugs: 63.1
* Assessment of electric-car impact on utility system: 14.2
* Development of recharging, testing, storage hardware: 12.7
* Customer education; Calstart support: 10.8
* Electric cars for Edison's fleet: 10.0
* Overhead: 10.8
Southern California Gas Co.*
* Retail fueling stations: $38.6
* Incentives for buying natural gas vehicles: 11.0
* Research and development of natural gas engines: 26.0
* Customer education: 4.0
* Vehicle purchases for Gas Co. fleet: 9.0
* Overhead: 45.4
Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
* Incentives to buy electric cars;
charging station installation $90.0
* 576 electric vehicles for PG&E fleet: 14.0
* Research and development;
charging station demonstrations: 16.0
* System impact studies: 8.0
Natural gas vehicles:
* 2,500 natural gas vehicles for PG&E fleet: 49.0
* Incentives to fleet operators and fuel retailers: 24.0
* Research and development; quality assurance: 8.0
San Diego Gas & Electric
* Battery incentives: $5.2
* Recharging equipment infrastructure: 3.7
* SDG&E electric-vehicle fleet purchase; infrastructure: 1.0
* System impact studies: 1.8
* Marketing; distribution system upgrade: 4.3
Natural gas vehicles:
* Fueling stations: 10.0
* Marketing; environmental analysis: 6.4
* Incentives to buy vehicles and build refueling facilities: 2.6
* SDG&E fleet purchases: 2.4
* Labor, materials to maintain 55 fueling stations: 8.1
Sources: The utilities