We’ve heard from naysayers that electric and other zero emissions vehicles are not the “future,” and from advocates who say they are.
Of course no one knows the actual future, but if today the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approves its proposed “advanced clean air rules” as it is expected to, zero-emissions vehicles could become far more commonplace nationwide.
California has a long track record of effectively setting environmental policies that force automakers to comply, wind up affecting the rest of the country, and the state is attempting to do it again.
Today the MercuryNews.com reported the proposed rules will mandate 15 percent of new cars sold in the Golden State to emit zero or significantly reduced emissions by 2025.
If approved, the ramp up of mandated zero emissions vehicles would begin in 2017 and cover a period through 2025. The rules also allow for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles or other zero emissions technologies.
According to the plan, each year ZEVs would incrementally increase. By 2025 the estimate is 1.4 million ZEVs could be on California roads – up from around 10,000 today.
The rules would also restrict gasoline and diesel automobiles, SUVs, minivans and pickups, requiring a 75-percent smog-forming emissions reduction by 2025. Also mandated are cuts to CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions for these same vehicles by 50 percent.
If implemented, these rules will effectively compel automakers to implement across-the-board updates, which is CARB’s intent, according to its Tom Cackette, an engineer and chief deputy director.
“This is a really large step. It’s transformational,” Cackette said. “Ten years from now the market is going to look quite a bit different.”
The air board estimates regulations will pay for themselves. It figures each new 2025 model will cost $1,900 more than it otherwise might have, but will save $5,900 in gasoline costs over its lifetime.
In previous years, California has been fought for other environmental legislation it has approved, including its ban on leaded gasoline, mandating catalytic converters and limiting vehicles’ greenhouse emissions.
But the auto industry – already gearing up for green vehicles in light of more stringent federal and European emissions and mileage standards – is not fighting it.
Additionally, General Motors and Chrysler cannot fight new CARB rules in court. As part of bankruptcy bailout deals under the Obama administration, auto executives for these companies agreed to not sue California to oppose new rules.
Environmentalists – as might not be too surprising – have said the latest goals are attainable.
“We believe it’s a pretty reasonable target,” said Simon Mui, a batteries scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Every major automaker and numerous startups are offering some type of plug-in hybrid or pure-electric vehicle already – or they will be in the next two or three years.”
But the rules are not without opponents. California Republican U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, who yesterday headed up a House subcommittee inquiry into possible improprieties surrounding the Chevy Volt, is also against the air quality proposal in his home state.
Issa has said California is exerting improper influence from the state level by setting standards that stand to become de facto federal standards.
California air board chief, Mary Nichols countered Issa’s contention, citing a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding California’s right to regulate greenhouse emissions.
How this decision could play out in light of new Corporate Annual Fuel Economy Rules being set by federal regulators for the same time period is not entirely clear.
First, we shall see whether California’s air board approves the rules, and where this story goes from there.