Maybe reverse psychology works. After relentless lobbying by the Big Three and Japanese automakers, the California Air Resources Board drops its requirement that 2% of what every major manufacturer sells in the state in 1998 be battery-powered.

Then, almost simultaneously, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. announce plans to offer EVs. Both will be powered by Ovonics Battery Corp.'s nickel-metal-hydride batteries. Honda's offering resembles the CU-V Honda unveiled early last year, will carry four passengers and travel up to 125 miles. Its maximum speed: 125 mph (201 km/h).

General Morors Corp. will be first to market, offering its EV1 this fall in southern California and Arizona.

An electric variant of the Toyota RAV4 will be introduced in the Golden State in 1998. Ford Motor Co. will package lead-acid batteries in its Ranger compact pickup, beginning in 1997, while Chrysler Corp. is sticking with its electric-powered minivan targeted for a 1998 intro.