What Are Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs)?

Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs) are vehicles that produce zero exhaust emissions of any criteria pollutant (or precursor pollutant) under any and all possible operational modes and conditions. ZEVs are typically cheaper to fuel than gasoline-powered vehicles, and there are an increasing number of models to choose from, including longer-range Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), All-wheel-drive vehicles, SUVs, and mini-vans. California represents half of the ZEV market in the United States and ZEV Sales in California increased by more than 300% in 2018. California offers several rebates to support the purchase of ZEVs, including special rates for state employees.  Widespread adoption of ZEVs is critical to meeting California's greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, and for improving California's air quality.

Types of Zero Emission Vehicles:

  • BEVs: Battery Electric Vehicles, which run exclusively on batteries
  • PHEVs: Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles, which have a limited electric range and a range-extending gasoline engine
  • FCEVs: Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, which are powered by electricity stored in hydrogen fuel

Why ZEVs?

Transportation is the dominant source of carbon emissions in California. Gasoline and diesel engines are responsible for 80 percent of the nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions statewide. ZEVS are an essential part of the State’s climate mitigation strategy, Recent State of California legislation and executive orders call for California to address Climate Change and make changes in the way we use energy:

AB 32 California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, calls for statewide greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020 (AB 32), and to be 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 (SB 32). SB 100, the California Clean Energy Act of 2017, puts the state on a path for a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2045. SB 350, passed in 2015, calls on the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) to authorize utilities to undertake transportation electrification activities.

Executive Order B-48-18 calls for California to place 5 million gasoline powered vehicles with ZEVs by 2030, and for private and public entities to work together to install 250,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2025. Executive Order N-19-19 reinforces the targets set in Executive Order B-48-18 by instructing CARB to. Executive Order N-19-19 instructs the State Transportation Agency to leverage $5 billion for construction, operations, and maintenance in reversing the trend of increased fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation sector. These Executive Orders demonstrate the State’s support for expanding vehicle charging infrastructure.

The movement to increase ZEVs on the roads is supported by State, National, and International collaboration. Read more about these collaborative efforts, including the Governors ZEV Action Plan Priorities Update, and the Multi-State ZEV Task Force. Caltrans is also part of the Transport Decarbonization Alliance, which seeks to increase ZEV use among other strategies.


The Department's ZEV Program supports goals contained in the Governor's ZEV Action Plan, a roadmap for meeting Executive Orders B-16-12, B-48-18 and N-19-19. The five parts of the ZEV program are:

  1. Fleet Vehicles
  2. Workplace Charging
  3. Public Charging
  4. Freight
  5. Partnerships

As a member of the governors Interagency Working Group on Zero-Emission Vehicles, Caltrans plays an important role in the efforts to increase ZEVs on the state’s roadways. The department has accomplished significant milestones in expanding ZEV usage and infrastructure, including:

  • As of November 2018, Caltrans light-duty fleet is 8% ZEV, which is well on the way to meeting the target of 50% purchasing for all fleet replacements by 2050
  • As of June 2018, Caltrans has 597 Level 2 charging stations at workplace and fleet locations
  • Caltrans is also actively working to install 49 public-use DC fast chargers in the highway right-of-way
  • In January 2019, Caltrans launched its ZEV Technical Advisory Committee to develop, implement, and track activities to fulfill our commitments to ZEV adoption.

ZEVFest (2018)

Caltrans "ZEVFest" on June 15, 2018 was a half-day event focused on education, awareness and partnering to accelerate the Departments progress in implementing the States goals for Zero Emission Vehicles.

The Caltrans Sustainability Program hosted this inter-agency meeting with members from the Governor's Office, California Energy Commission, Department of General Services, California Air Resources Board, and Electrify America. Executive leaders from Caltrans Headquarters and Districts also attended.

The meeting focused on strengthening partnerships between Caltrans and other stakeholders on issues related to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and focused on actions that Caltrans can take to implement the Administration's objectives on ZEVs.

ZEV Fact Sheet

Electric Vehicle Terminology

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