WASHINGTON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Ahead of a California hearing on the future of electric vehicles, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers announced details on Tuesday of its proposal for a test to determine whether there is a sustainable consumer market for battery-powered electric vehicles.

The alliance, a 13-member coalition of car and light truck manufacturers who represent more than 90 percent of U.S. vehicle sales, issued their details ahead of a January 25 hearing to be held by the California Air Resources Board (ARB) on proposed changes to zero emission vehicle (ZEV) regulations.

The California ARB is scheduled to vote on January 25 to amend a 1990 decision that would require 10 percent of the vehicles produced for sale in the state to be zero emission by 2003.

The new rule would mandate roughly two percent of California cars be pure ZEVs by 2003, while another two percent be hybrid and fuel cell vehicles and a further six percent "extremely clean" gas and other vehicles.

"The Fair Market Test is a common-sense way of showing if there is consumer demand for EVs," Josephine Cooper, the Alliance's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"Everyone, including regulators, agrees that California's ZEV mandate presents enormous challenges, and one of the most difficult is low customer demand for electric vehicles. The Fair Market Test would resolve the debate over consumer demand once and for all."

The Alliance said its fair market test would be conducted through existing dealerships over a specified time period, beginning in 2003.

The test would be administered by a foundation composed of diverse interests, ranging from representatives of ARB to the public.

The programme includes $US15 million per year of funds to be administered by the foundation to cover administrative expenses, advertising and other costs, the alliance said.

According to the alliance, automakers proposed either Los Angeles or Sacramento to serve as the consumer test market, though the foundation would ultimately select the market.

Under the test, the current ZEV regulation would be amended to defer its effective date while the test is conducted. The final decision regarding the test's success would be made by ARB, as required by California law. The Alliance expects this decision would be based on criteria established by the foundation that administers the test.

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