SACRAMENTO, Calif. ---- California's Air Resources Board voted March 27 to slash by 70 percent the number of emission-free vehicles that carmakers must sell in the state in coming years, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The board, however, set new rules requiring automakers to build tens of thousands of plug-in hybrid cars. Board members also adopted a motion to overhaul the Zero Emission Vehicle program to account for stricter greenhouse-gas emission standards enacted in California in recent years. That could lead to the production of many more cleaner-burning vehicles, but the overhaul won't happen until at least the end of 2009, the Times reported.

Under the new standards, passed unanimously, the board will require the major automakers in the state to produce 7,500 electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles for sale, lease or loan in California from 2012 to 2014 -- down from the 25,000 required in the period under the previous rules.

In addition, carmakers will be expected to make about 58,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in the same period. The previous regulation, passed in 2003, made no provisions for plug-in hybrids because they were not considered viable at the time. 

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet