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ZEV Mandate Enjoys Wide Voter Support

May 31, 2000|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Proponents of California's zero-emissions vehicle mandate will unveil a new survey this morning showing that almost two-thirds of the state's voters support the rule.

The so-called ZEV mandate is the subject of a two-day Air Resources Board workshop that begins today at the South Coast Air Quality Management District headquarters in Diamond Bar.

The mandate, being opposed by most auto makers, would require the largest manufacturers to provide new electric vehicles or other zero-emissions vehicles for sale in the state every year beginning with the 2003 model year.

This week's workshop is part of the air board's biennial review of the rule, adopted in 1990 and modified several times since then. The board is scheduled to hear a staff report in September that would include any recommendations for further changes.

The poll results show that "the public supports clean air and sees the need for government involvement because the car makers won't do it alone," said Andrew Weisser, a spokesman for the American Lung Assn. of California, one of the groups in the ZEV Alliance that commissioned the poll.

The poll, conducted by Santa Monica-based opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates, found that 65% of 600 registered voters supported the mandate, while 24% opposed the rule and 12% were undecided. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In a similar poll of voters taken by the same firm in 1994, 60% supported the zero-emissions mandate.

The auto industry points to a report prepared for the air board that says the cost of batteries used to power electric vehicles remains too high to make the vehicles commercially competitive.

"Electrics are going to cost substantially more than gasoline cars, and they will have substantially less range, and we don't believe consumers are willing to pay," said Steven Douglas, Sacramento-based representative of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

"People say one thing in the abstract, but when they have to put their money down and are facing years of payments, they think a little differently."

Jerry Martin, a spokesman for the air board, said the poll results and continuing support for the mandate since 1994 show that the $30-million anti-ZEV campaign by auto makers and gasoline refiners in the mid-'90s failed.

"I think the car companies now see that there is a market for ZEVs," Martin said. "And the message I have gotten from board members is that they are very much committed to making the ZEV program work."

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