California Expected to Approve Landmark EV Rules

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.


  • AP

    Note that “Zero-Emissions Vehicles” are not zero-emissions vehicles. They emit pollutants remotely. Leave it to the government to obscure an issue and confuse the public.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    EV’s may not be zero emission vehicles but at least they’re american powered…I’m sure people will be against that concept as well…

    MrEnergyCzar

  • James Davis

    I think it is quite noble that California has enough balls to stand up to the republicans and set cleaner standards that will sweep the nation. The only way these companies are going to change is if they are forced to do so, and California is just the state to do it.

    Is all the people in Issa’s state agreeing with him that they do not need clean air to breathe or clean water to drink or non-polluted land to live on? Are these people and Issa garbage rats or something who like living in garbage and trash piles? A person with Issa’s agenda should be recalled and replaced; unless of course, all the people do agree with him.

    Electric cars are the future and they are here now.

  • Nelson Lu

    AP wrote:
    “Note that “Zero-Emissions Vehicles” are not zero-emissions vehicles. They emit pollutants remotely. Leave it to the government to obscure an issue and confuse the public.”

    This assertion is misleading, at best. The vehicles themselves are zero-emission. The claim of “[t]hey emit pollutants remotely[]” (presumably referring to the fact that most electrical plants emit pollutants) is comparing apples and oranges because gas-powered vehicles similarly need their means of energy — gasoline — delivered by means that presumably emit pollutants. For that matter, bicycles — the ultimate zero-emission vehicles — also, under this twisted assertion, “emit pollutants” since their human “engines” require energy that are delivered by means that presumably emit pollutants. In other words, the only meaningful way to measure whether a vehicle is “zero emission” is by looking at the vehicle itself.

  • douglas prince

    Haven’t we seen this picture before? As I recall, it didn’t have a particularly happy ending.

  • AP

    Nelson, to evaluate a vehicle’s impact on the environment, you must look at the whole picture. This is simple physics.

    Pretending that a vehicle produces no CO2 because it is emitted at a power plant does not change the fact that it IS caused by operating the vehicle. By your logic the power plant is at fault, so we should shut it down. But then the vehicle would not run.

    I’m not criticizing electric vehicles here. I’m just saying we shouldn’t fool ourselves, or let the government fool us, into thinking that they can do the impossible. We need to be realistic.

  • Nelson Lu

    AP, correct, but you have to compare apples to apples, which I believe your comment was not doing.

  • Milwaukee Tim

    Agreed AP, but if one were to purchase electricity from renewable sources (ie the Energy for Tomorrow program in Wisconsin) then one could truly say the vehicle is zero emission.

  • JJJSpawn

    I have to agree with Nelson on this one. Going by AP/Milwaukee logic, unless all input is zero emission, no form of transportation would be zero.

    If you have issue with the coal plant down the road, that is a separate issue. A valid issue, but separate. It reminds me of the article reasoning that a hummer is more fuel efficient than a prius because it was built on previous technology versus pushing the envelope.

  • AP

    JJJSpawn, I don’t know how you can say the emissions at a coal plant are separate from the vehicle. The power plant burns coal, thereby producing the power that drives the car. No power plant, no driving the car.

    This is thermodynamics: we can’t hide from the fact that driving the car produces an effect (emissions and waste heat) somewhere, either at the car (as in an IC engine) or at the power plant (as in electric).

    And you’re exactly right that unless all input is zero emission, no form of transportation would be zero.

  • JJJSpawn

    That was not my point. The car maker does not control whether the electrical power is from a coal plant or the hoover dam. You have to look at the system that is being produced.

    So if you want to include the coal plant… do you include the supply chain that brings the coal to the plants? What about the machines that pull the coal out of the mine? What about the emission of the vehicles that get the workers to the coal mine? This would have to be included in your theory. The article today about Nissan’s boat.

    http://www.hybridcars.com/news/nissans-green-green-car-carrier-nichioh-maru-35927.html

    is them trying to shore up the supply line side, but that cannot be fixed in one fell swoop. As far as I know Nissan does not produce coal machines or conveyor belts etc. It is up to each part to take responsibility to make their part better til it is zero emission (or as close as humanly/thermodynamicly possible)

  • AP

    Not counting the power plant in the equation is like saying you don’t put trash into the landfill because, the garbage truck is what places it there. But every pound of trash you put into it ends up in the landfill, so yes, you are putting it in the landfill.

    Saying we *could* power the car on non-polluting sources doesn’t make it so. During the lifetime of the average Leaf, it will cause much CO2 to be produced, from coal and natural gas plants, because that’s what will generate power for the next 10-15 years.

  • JJJSpawn

    Your example is a different system. Would the Leaf be better if it received its power from the methane recovered from my trash at the landfill?

    Just asking when you look at IEC cars, does the supply line of gas to the pump count in the CO2 production of the car?

  • AP

    JJJSpawn, the Leaf would be “zero-emissions” if it ran on electricity from methane from a trash dump. But 99% of Leafs will be powered in ways that create CO2.

    And yes, the supply line should be included for any source of power, a “well-to-wheels” approach.

  • JJJSpawn

    AP, just want to say then that the next clean air act that Cali enacts needs to address how power for homes is produced, rather methane, bio, fuel cell or what have you. Cali is ahead of the US Congress but everything cannot be put under one bill.

  • AP

    JJJSpawn, it’s going to be interesting, but a long battle. It will take 40 years or more to convert power plants over, unless we want to scrap ones just made (big $).

    Also, if California changes over from CO2-producing but cheap sources of energy, to non-polluting expensive ones, you will see California’s electric rates double, triple, or ???

    In a state that’s already in debt and may need to raise taxes or cut spending, adding that much to consumer costs may make everyone move out.

  • JJJSpawn

    AP, those are some good points. I think we actually agree. ☻

  • AP

    JJJSpawn, I think so too. These aren’t as easy questions as some people think.

  • tapra1

    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. Latest News

  • mousey

    Okay, I just gotta say, I have my big fat car for a reason, safety against other big fat cars. Gas guzzler or not. I know, call it ignorant. But there is no way I am gonna put my kids in one of these things when learning how to drive and then mastering driving-all of which take time. Zero emissions of not, I guess I am no as altruistic as I should be. Good Article for conversation.