Partial Zero Emission Vehicles

When it comes to reducing vehicle emissions you usually hear about electric or hybrid vehicles, but what about the PZEV (partial zero emission vehicle)? Are PZEVs just hype and a way for auto makers and states to say they are making a difference or are they genuinely part of the solution to lower emissions and bringing us more environmentally-friendly vehicles?

The Zero Emissions Vehicle regulation and program, from the California Air Resources Board (CARB), was first put into place back in 1990. The program was designed to help dramatically reduce emissions from mobile sources in California.

And although there have been a number of modifications over the years, California definitely considers their ZEV program to be a key part of lowering vehicle emissions and helping to the reach the overall 2050 goal of lowering California’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below the 1990 levels. This is especially true since it is estimated that mobile sources (from vehicles, trains, aircraft, etc) contribute close to 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions in California alone.

So let’s go over how the CARB defines a ZEV or PZEV and take a look at an example of a vehicle from each category:

  • ZEV: is classified as a battery electric or a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle

  • PZEV: is classified as an “extremely clean conventional vehicle with 150,000 mile extended warranty for the emissions system and zero evaporative emissions” rating

  • AT PZEV: is classified as a hybrid, CNG or methane fuel cell vehicle with close to zero emissions. It also has an extended emissions system warranty. rating

  • Enhanced AT PZEV: is classified as an AT PZEV that uses electricity or hydrogen, like the ZEV. A plug-in hybrid is an example of an enhanced AT PZEV.

Now of course these days when you go to buy a new vehicle you should check out the EP Label and see its global warming and smog scores before you buy it.

Click to enlarge (Image via

Look into a proven fuel additive too, if you are going to get a gasoline or diesel-fueled vehicle, as that can also help lower emissions.

Whether you are interested in a zero emission vehicle (ZEV) or a partial zero emission vehicle (PZEV), be sure to factor in harmful emissions and the environmental impact your vehicle will have…before you buy. The EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide can help you with that.

In all honesty though, if you really look at it, you’ll probably find that walking, riding your bike or using public transportation are some of the best options for lowering your vehicle emissions. What do you think?


  • Stephanie

    Great explanation of the various low or zero-emissions vehicles. Consumers should know that there are many options out there to minimize their carbon footprint!


    Well done, as usual. I have a feeling that if the US Dept of Energy’s fossil fuel reserve data are accurate, we will see a lot more PZEV and ZEV a lot sooner than we expected. Fuel costs will simply not be sustainable.

  • Latisha Boivin

    EV cars are the way forward.

  • Lisa

    If I live in a state, such as Michigan, that does not have the low sulfur gas as in California, will a PZEV vehicle still provide some benefit even though not running on the ‘cleaner’ gas? Will the car be damaged by running on traditional gas?

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