Hoping to buy an emission-free vehicle in the next few years? Finding one might soon get much tougher, the Los Angeles Times reports.

California's Air Resources Board will vote today on whether to cut, by nearly two-thirds, the number of electric-battery and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles that major carmakers must sell here over the next decade.

The proposed change to the state's Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate has stirred up protests from environmentalists and alternative-transportation advocates, who say automakers have little incentive to produce such vehicles unless obligated. Others say the state will be unable to meet its own greenhouse gas-reduction targets without requiring more production of emission-free vehicles. Passenger vehicles emit about 30% of California's greenhouse gases.

"This is a very significant reduction," said V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies in Sacramento."We need to look at getting car companies to push more technology than they want to, sooner than they want to, not making concessions to industry."

Automakers argue that even the reduced mandate is too tough, considering the extremely high costs associated with developing new drivetrain technology. In a March 14 letter to the air board, the six largest automakers selling in California -- General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. -- expressed concerns that parts of the mandate were "overly stringent" and that the changes "place an inordinate burden upon the resources" of the companies.

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