Santa Monica resident Zan Dubin Scott believes in electric vehicles. She and her husband Paul bought a Toyota Rav 4 back in 2002 and have been driving it for six years.
“We haven’t been to the gas station once in that time!” says Scott. “And we charge our car with electricity generated by the solar panels on our roof. We are driving on sunshine.”
But the auto industry hasn’t produced electric cars lately. As chronicled in Chris Paine’s film, Who Killed the Electric Car?, the auto companies had originally manufactured about 5,000 electric vehicles as a response to a California state mandate to produce a certain number of zero emission vehicles. The companies, however, feared a loss of profits and began to dismantle the electric vehicle program – literally crushing the electric cars. Toyota, in fact, stopped its electric vehicle program a week after the Scotts had purchased their Rav 4.
Protests (shown in Paine’s film) were organized, and the Scotts were among them, helping to form don’tcrush.com. Now they have co-founded a new group, Plug In America, which is seeking to bring back production of electric vehicles. Paine is appropriately chronicling the events for a sequel to his first film, to be called Who Saved the Electric Car?
On March 27, Scott, Paul, Paine, and other activists went to Sacramento to urge the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to not “water down” the existing zero emissions program. When Scott spoke to the Mirror prior to the hearing, she said that “what they’ve got on the books now is to produce 25,000 EVs between 2012 and 2014. But they’re looking at a staff recommendation that is proposing that they produce only 2,500 cars in that time period, which breaks down to 150 cars per automaker per year. Which is less than the program that killed the electric car in the first place. So clearly, they’re just scaling way back as usual under pressure from the car companies who are crying poverty.
“Frankly it’s the same story that they have been whining since they were all told to put seat belts in all the cars.”
The trip to Sacramento proved disappointing. CARB reduced the number of zero emission vehicles that auto companies must produce by 70 percent, to about 7,500 per year. The standard had been 25,000 per year for the years 2012-14.
“They did somewhat increase the requirement for production of plug-in electric hybrid vehicles,” says Scott. “Those are a gas-electric combination. But those are not pure zero emission vehicles.”
For Scott, the consolation was that Plug In America received international attention, as the group’s press conference in Sacramento was carried by UPI, AP, Reuters, NPR, and KCRW, among others. “This is unprecedented – the issue has never gotten this much attention – certainly not for Plug In America’s desire for zero emission vehicles.”
Scott says that over 3,000 people from all over the country, as well as people from 20 other countries, faxed Governor Schwarzenegger asking him to urge the Board to produce more clean cars.
What Plug In America plans next is to shift the fight away from CARB and move toward the State Legislature. Scott feels that since CARB’s members are voluntary, they are subject to being swayed by “a few powerful people,” and Plug In America “just [doesn’t] think that’s right.”
“Our battle, which is ongoing, is not about a certain type of car. It’s about clean air and how hundreds of thousands of people die prematurely every year because of auto-related pollution. We’re going to work whichever way we can that is most effective.”