PZEV: the Acronym That Means Nothing

Have you ever been driving along, stopped at a red light and noticed the car in front of you has a "PZEV" badge on its rear end? Quite a few people see the badge and at least casually wonder what it means. Is it the trim level for the car? A special feature? Maybe it's a super-secret type of turbo?

In reality PZEV is none of those things. It is an acronym, one that really doesn't mean much of anything (if you ask me).

PZEV stands for Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle. I know what a zero emissions vehicle is, like the Nissan Leaf or the Tesla Model S. Those cars don't emit anything out of their tailpipe (they don't even have one). That means the car itself produces zero air pollution. Does a PZEV car only produce a partial air pollution? It seems to me that a car either produces air pollution or emissions or it doesn't. I always learned in math that dividing zero by any number didn't result in a partial zero.

Of course the whole thing was created by politicians, who are experts are creating nonsense. Essentially a PZEV has beefed up emissions controls that are warrantied for 150,000 miles or 15 years. The idea is that the vehicles will pollute less. I haven't found any information that either confirms or debunks that they do indeed reduce pollution like hybrids or electric vehicles.

So why do automakers produce PZEV vehicles? The state of California gives any automaker that sells PZEVs ZEV credits. I'm not going to get into all the intricacies of the system, since again it was created by lawmakers and would consist of too many boring bedtime stories (in the middle of the day, because it's just so boring it would put even a room of college professors to sleep). If an automaker doesn't have ZEV credits it can't sell cars in California. There are other ways to earn these credits, and automakers with excess credits can sell them. But really the incentive is to produce PZEVs to continue selling cars in a huge car market. Any automaker that would allow themselves to get pushed out of California deserves to die.

So that's what a PZEV is: a partial zero or a mathematical impossibility (because everyone knows dividing  zero will result in tearing the space-time continuum).

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