How can something be a part of zero? Well, leave it to the State of California to figure it out. The PZEV is a confusing environmental designation for vehicles almost as squeaky clean as the hybrids.
It dates back a decade or so when California established its ill-fated Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, designed to require automakers to produce a small percentage of vehicles with absolutely no emissions. When the auto industry and oil companies fought back—see the 2006 documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”—the state allowed carmakers to get partial credit for hybrids and other vehicles that are pretty darn clean, but not entirely zero emission.
California continues to modify its formula for giving credits with a mix of different zero and partial-zero vehicles. For most car shoppers, it’s not important to understand the equation for qualification—even if you could. But you should know that buying a PZEV means that you’re doing your part to reduce our collective environmental footprint. The State of California says that PZEVs are 90 cleaner than the average 2004 model year car.
If you’re not confused yet, read on. A PZEV is basically the same as a AT-PZEV or a SULEV. The AT-PZEV (or Advanced Technology PZEV) just means that the car employs a hybrid or other high-tech system or alternative fuel. The main difference between a SULEV (or Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) and a PZEV is that the PZEV is in California, which offers a 15-year and 150,000 mile emissions system warranty on that clean-burning car. It also has zero evaporative emissions (that occur when the car is not running).
According to the California Air Resources Board, there are close to 1 million PZEVs on California roads. By the end of 2010, a new crop of full (not partial) zero emission vehicles will begin arriving in dealerships—but in limited numbers. Until ZEVs emerge in force, ask your salesperson to point the way to the Partial Zero Emission Vehicles available right now.