Tesla’s Ze’ev on CARB’s “Misguided” ZEV Mandate

Tesla’s president and CEO Ze’ev Drori has exercised his civic duty via the age-old agent of democracy — the strongly-worded letter. Drori posted a letter on Tesla’s blog to Mary Nichols, Chairperson of the California Air Resources Board, that vehemently disagrees with the Board’s decision to slash the zero emission vehicle mandate by 70 percent.

Critics say that at the behest of large automakers, the Board drafted a new mandate, which requires a mere 7,500 ZEVs on California roads between 2012 and 2015. The ire of Drori’s letter boils down to his assertions that the board is “misguided” in its fact finding process, which led to the “erroneous” conclusion that an electric vehicle wouldn’t be commercially available until 2012. Drori is quick to point out that Tesla is already delivering ZEVs and lists Nissan, Daimler, BMW, and Mitsubishi as other automakers who have announced plans to sell ZEVs in California by 2010.

But Drori has some advice for CARB — the mandate is not beyond redemption. Drori lays out four essential amendments that he says the Board needs to make to truly foster the manufacture and adoption of zero emission vehicles in California:

  1. Increase, not decrease, the minimum number of Pure ZEV required in Phase III (2012-2015).
  2. Eliminate the substitution of Pure ZEVs with Enhanced AT-PZEVs.
  3. Set the minimum ZEV requirements on a yearly basis rather than for three years, thus preventing manufacturers from getting an additional three year grace period and eliminating “blackout” years.
  4. A complicated credit system differentiates the way “intermediate vehicle manufactures” and “large vehicle manufacturers” can redeem and trade gold credits, earned by putting zero emission vehicles on the road. Drori wasnt to change the expiry system on these credits so that manufacturers of pure ZEVs can make full use of those credits and not be forced to sell them at steep discounts because of their short lifespan.

The Board will probably repeat the same mistakes it made back in the 90s that were so well documented in Who Killed the Electric Car?. But Drori’s letter shows that startups are indeed paying attention to policy and are trying to have their voices heard in the system.