Zero-Emission Vehicles

What is a Zero-Emission Vehicle?

What is a Zero-Emission Vehicle?

Technically speaking, a zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) is any mode of transportation that produce absolutely no harmful pollutants. We’re primarily talking about carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases. So, if you think about it, bicycles and skateboards could be considered zero-emission vehicles.

A Whole Bunch of Acronyms

When it comes to today’s growing list of ZEVs such as battery electric vehicles (BEV) or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCEV), they either don’t have a tailpipe as with electric cars, or the only byproduct from a FCEV is pollutant-free water vapor. Other vehicles such as hybrids (HEV) or plug-in hybrids (PHEV) still produce some emissions when they engage their gasoline-powered engines, so they are not true zero-emission vehicles.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) came up with the term zero-emission vehicle in 1990 as part of its Low Emission Vehicle regulation. To meet the state’s health-based air quality control standards, ZEV regulations were put into effect to reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions in the state. In the last decade, more than half a million zero-emission vehicles and plug-in hybrids have been registered in California.

As you might guess, gasoline-powered vehicles and fossil fuels are the sources of most of California’s carbon emissions and ZEVs are part of the state’s solution to improve long term air quality. Automakers have been mandated to manufacture a number of ZEVs and PHEVs each year, based on the total number of cars sold in California. CARB will require that 22 percent of all vehicles sold in the state be ZEVs by 2025.

CARB has worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to extend ZEV regulations to other states, and today, such automakers as BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen must comply with CARB’s standards. ZEVs reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 58% per mile driven.

Clean Energy

Some have sited that a true all-electric vehicle should only use electricity sourced from clean energy. We’re talking about electricity that comes to you through hydro-electric, wind power or solar power sources. However, this is not part of the CARB standard which refers only to vehicle emissions from the onboard source of power. Others have suggested that the manufacturing process of these cars and their lithium-ion batteries also creates pollution. However, as ZEVs continue to evolve and are mass produced, it is predicted that any harmful emissions that are created during the manufacturing process will be reduced through the use of renewable energy sources.

Types of ZEVs

Solar-powered Vehicles have been around since 1955, though most of these sun-powered electric cars have been experimental and used in races such as the World Solar Challenge. We mention them here because not only are solar cars zero-emission vehicles, but they are on the rise thanks to such new manufacturers as Lightyear One that is launching a mass-produced solar and electric car this year. Aptera Motors is working on a “never charge” EV that boasts a 1,000-mile range.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) use electric motors and battery packs for power whether we are talking about cars, trucks, airplanes, trains or sailboats. Even the two-wheeled Segway is a ZEV. They do not emit any pollutants or CO2 gases. Popular all-electric cars include the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Bolt and the Ford Mustang Mach-E. BEVs can be recharged at home over night or at public Charging Stations.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV) utilize compressed hydrogen gas for fuel. The hydrogen produces electricity to power the vehicle. And the hydrogen that drives FCVs can be produced by such green resources as wind or hydro-electric power. As mentioned earlier, hydrogen fuel cells only emit water, so there are no emissions. FCVs such as the Honda Clarity is sold in Japan and southern California. Other current hydrogen-powered cars include the Hyundai Nexo and Xcient and Toyota’s Mirai II.

It is believed that the development of FCVs will go a long way in reducing greenhouses gases so that we can all breathe a little easier.