Aspirations Into Action

JOHN BOZZELLA, president and CEO of Global Automakers, briefs the New England Motor Press Association on the status of ZEVs (zero emissions vehicles).

By Bill Griffith

John Bozzella, president and CEO of Global Automakers, drove his own brand new (picked up at dealer’s en route) Acura TSX to Automation Headquarters on Oct. 16 to brief NEMPA members on the status of ZEVs (zero emissions vehicles).
Global Automakers represents the interests of foreign manufacturers such as Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota who do business in the United States.
There are two long-range automotive goals “out there” that Bozzella addressed. One is the federally mandated CAFE (corporate average fleet economy) figure of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The other is the ZEV (zero emissions vehicles) mandate for 2025.

The ZEV mandate is for the 10 ZEV states (including Massachusetts) and requires that 15 percent of new vehicles sold there in 2025 be zero emissions vehicles—about 4 million vehicles in 11-plus years.

For the record, the other ZEV states (also known as California emissions) are California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

ZEV is an acronym encompassing Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) such as the Nissan Leaf and Tesla S, Plug-In Hybrids (PHEVs) such as the Chevrolet Volt, Prius Plug-In, and Ford C-Max Energi, and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) such as the Hyundai Tucson and coming Toyota and Honda models.

There are many stakeholders involved in meeting these mandates. On one side we have governments (federal and state) setting mandates and signing agreements. On the other, we have the automakers, industry groups such as Global Automakers, and the oft-confused consumer.

Bozzella took a look at the present realities:
Automakers have been spending billions developing, producing, and promoting ZEVs.
The 24 hybrids and ZEVs currently on the market are safe, dependable, and easy to drive.
More than 100,000 ZEVs have been sold since 2011 in California, but only 30,000 in Oregon and the Northeast Eight.

“Hybrid technology has been around for 13-14 years now,” Bozzella says. “It’s a widely accepted technology and automakers are committed to staying in the game.”

However, to comply with the ZEV mandate, Bozzella estimates that the industry needs to sell an average of 350,000 ZEVs per year in the states involved.

It’s not happening.

“In California, electrified auto sales are at about 3 percent [of new car sales]. In the Northeast states it’s less than .5 percent … and dropping,” he says.

California is developing the hydrogen infrastructure for fuel cell vehicles and permits ZEVs to use HOV lanes with only a single operator aboard.

“Those are the types of incentives that move the market,” Bozzella says.
Developing a hydrogen refueling network in the Northeast and more fast-charging outlets for EVs are two obvious steps to be taken.

“We need to turn our aspirations into action,” says Bozzella about the ZEV memorandum in the Northeast that is part of a consortium called Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM).

Another factor involved is that in Massachusetts, for example, 50 percent of new vehicle sales are trucks (SUVs are considered trucks). That limits the potential market.

Also, the fuel cell-powered trend is just beginning.
Hyundai has launched its hydrogen-powered Tucson fuel cell vehicle in California. We recently drove it here and were impressed.

“Toyota’s fuel cell vehicle is coming along soon as well,” says Bozzella, “and the company is investing in the refueling infrastructure and plans to see it through.”
Is it just coincidence that we’re seeing a drop in oil prices just as this movement tries to gain traction?

In addition, we’re seeing considerable advances in fuel economy in traditional internal combustion engines thanks to turbocharging (to get more power from smaller displacements), direct injection, start/stop systems, and continuously variable transmissions (CVTs).

The EPA this month announced that model year 2013 vehicles achieved an average of 24.1 mpg—an increase of nearly 5 mpg since 2004 and a .5 mpg increase over 2012. The report singled out Mazda for having the highest fuel economy average and lowest greenhouse gas emissions and Nissan for making the greatest progress in both of those areas.

There’s also a pending mid-term review of the federal CAFE mandate in the next three years. That’s when we’ll see if we have the political will to follow through in what also is a mandate for cleaner air and freedom from reliance on foreign oil.

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