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Will Pete Wilson Zap Electric Cars?

Up Front: WHEELS


CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR PETE Wilson may pull the plug on the Golden State's clean-air rule forcing a reluctant Detroit to sell electric vehicles there by 1998. The Big Three auto makers fret that they will lose millions because clean-running electric cars will cost too much and can't travel far, so consumers won't buy them. A source close to the Wilson camp says he "wants to maintain the overall clean-air program, but he's taking a serious look at whether this one component makes sense." And if not, "there will be some trade-offs, bringing in other technologies."

Wilson can't change federal air standards that led to the electric-car mandate. But his appointees control the 11-member California Air Resources Board, which under his predecessor ordered that 2% of new vehicles sold in the state be electric by 1998, and 10% by 2003. They would have to find another way to meet the U.S. air standards.

Detroit figures Republican Wilson is worried the EV mandate could prove a liability in a Presidential campaign among regulation-hating conservatives. Wilson aides, however, deny that there are political motives here. EDITED BY MICHAEL MANDEL, WITH OLUWABUNMI SHABI David Woodruff and Eric Schine

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