California’s Green Car Roadmap to 2050

One hundred percent of car sales will be zero emission vehicles in 2050. That’s the vision of the California Air Resources Board, explained in a meeting in late October to review the state’s zero emission vehicle (ZEV) strategy. At the meeting, the agency outlined the roadmap for getting there.

What’s the basis of the CARB plan? It’s not an estimate of how rapidly ZEV technologies like battery and fuel cell-powered vehicles are likely to develop. Nor is it based on likely prices, or expected market acceptance, of those cars and trucks. Instead the agency calculated where the statewide vehicle fleet should be to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction targets in 2050. Then it worked backwards to the present to factor how quickly these nascent technologies would have to grow.

The Roadmap

Three easy steps:

  • Current hybrid vehicles—currently about 4 percent of the market—need to grow to 40 percent of the market in the next 10 years, and then taper off, completely disappearing in 2040.
  • Plug-in hybrids—promoted as a solution by Al Gore, ex-CIA director Jim Woolsey, many others—will be introduced next year and will rapidly rise to 40 percent of the market by the mid-2030s.
  • Zero emission electric and fuel cell vehicles will be introduced over the next five years and rapidly accelerate to become 100 percent of the new vehicle market by 2050.

This scenario also assumes the state will shift to low carbon biofuels, as well as shifting mostly to renewable sources to produce electricity.

The only problem with this aggressive “base scenario” for our automotive future—other than ignoring market and technology realities—is that it isn’t good enough to get the state to its greenhouse gas goals. So CARB staff created a “faster scenario” that triples the adoption rate of zero emission vehicles to 30 percent of sales by 2025. That’s a quantum leap above current mandated levels.

The CARB roadmap reveals how difficult it will be to achieve the state’s ambitious goals—especially after failing to enforce its 1990 mandate for 10 percent of California’s new vehicles to be zero emission by 2003.


  • ex-EV1 driver

    This is an interesting goal but I predict the following deviations are more realistic and, as such, will be driven by technological, economic, and market forces:
    - FCV will disappear entirely (unless some unnatural, drastically expensive subsidies are applied to H2 fuel supply or some unforeseen technological breakthrough occurs)
    - PHEVs will likely have about a comparable share as pure BEVs for the foreseeable future (PHEVs can offer all of the advantages of a BEV but are useful for long trips away from infrastructure)
    - HEVs may not go away entirely as fast as predicted, especially if they transition from gasoline engines to natural gas or bio-diesel as their ICE fuel)
    I figure that if the government sets this as a goal and tries to force it, however, we’re all in for a disaster.

  • Richard S

    I agree with ex-EV1 with the exception that a hopeful transition from parallel to series HEV’s could extend the viability of the technology even further. With the generator maintaining a constant load and the weight savings of having a single drive train, future HEV’s will be significantly more efficient than todays models.

  • Mr.Bear

    Someone inform California that fuel cell vehicles are not zero emission. Fuel cells emit water vapor. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas not to mention it leads to cloud formation. Makes me wonder if a fleet of fuel cell cars in California will increase rainfall in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado.

  • Anonymous

    Considering the graph indicates % of new car sale,
    generally agree with ex-ev1 with the following twist:

    * rise of PHEV starting 2012
    * followed by declining HEV sales within 5 years (peak in 2017)
    * long term wise, PHEV and BEV taking 40/40 of the market and 20% consists of other

  • jonak

    .. in other words, rather than actually do a study and apply any discipline, they made something up to get the answer they wanted. Pathetic, really, and paid for out of our taxes.

    Instead of making up fairy stories, how about working to introduce a decent level of sales tax on gasoline ?
    If California added $3 tax to gas, (to take the price up to European levels) it might actually promote some change…..

  • Dan L

    I have mixed feelings.

    On the one hand, it is incredibly naive to assume that you can work backward from a target emissions level to production targets like these. No automaker in the world would invest the money to tool up their factories to produce 40% HEVs by 2020, expecting to begin scaling back production immediately, back down to 20% by 2030.

    On the other hand, continued economic growth of the kind we have seen for the last century would cause a 2% annual increase in fuel consumption. That comes out to a doubling in fuel consumption between 2010 and 2040. I don’t believe that the oil reserves exist to allow that kind of growth. So suspended economic growth coupled with extremely high fuel prices seems a likely outcome. Under those conditions, demand for conventional vehicles will plummet.

  • Joe

    I agree we need to cut down on gasoline usage. But, we have to do it a common sense way. The Carbon Credit will kill our Economy and force jobs overseas. We cannot afford it and we can not afford not to do something. My Hope is in Nuclear Fission and Hydrogen Cars is the answer in my opinion. But how long in the future this energy will be ready is unknown. Are we trading Carbon in our atmosphere, for lead batteries in our landfills. Cheap fuel is what gives Our country an advantage over other countries!

  • Anonymous

    The key to carbon tax/gas tax is phased implementation such that business can adopt over time with minor impact.

  • veek

    The strategy of deliberately mislabeling “Wishful Thinking” as “Hope” worked wonderfully well and was quite popular in the last US presidential campaign, so it is only reasonable that state planners should use it too.

  • Roy Keeney

    Where is all the electricity coming from to charge up all the batteries? Where are the plans to generate the kind of electrical power millions of cars will need?

  • tapra1

    or expected market acceptance, of those cars and trucks. Instead the agency calculated where the statewide vehicle fleet should be.Best Dedicated Hosting