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CALIFORNIA | AUTOS | THE STATE

Manufacturers Pessimistic About EVs

June 17, 1997|Donald W. Nauss

U.S. and Japanese auto makers say the development of affordable advanced batteries to power electric vehicles is progressing so slowly that it is unlikely that California zero-emission vehicle requirements can be met by 2003. The state requires 10% of new vehicles sold that year to have no emissions. That means the sale of more than 125,000 electric vehicles, the only ones that meet the zero-emission mandate. John Wallace, director of Ford Motor Co.'s alternative-fuels vehicle program, said better batteries are becoming commercially available but that their cost is still too high to attract many buyers. Electric vehicle sales will not be driven by regulation but by affordability, he said. "When the cost comes down, we will move ahead," Wallace said. General Motors Corp. and Honda are already offering electric vehicles in California, but sales have been disappointing. GM has leased 185 since December and Honda just seven in its first month. Chrysler Corp. delivered 17 new electric minivans to federal government fleets and an electric utility in California.

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