First introduced back in 1990, California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle mandate has become noticeably tougher in recent years, to the point that now, the California Air Resources Board has approved an amendment requiring that 15.4 percent of all cars sold in the Golden State by 2025, be ZEVs (plug-in hybrids, pure electric cars or fuel cell vehicles).
Although not actually finalized yet (that’s slated to happen sometime this summer), the requirements for each automaker will hinge on their sales volume in California, along with the types of vehicles each plans to market.
However, the idea has been met with skepticism from some quarters, Gloria Berquist, a spokeswoman representing the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers believes that while automakers are heavily committed to developing plug-in vehicles and financially, have a vested interest in selling as many as possible, there’s indication that demand for such cars won’t be enough to meet California’s strict requirements.
And if other states adopt similar measures to California, (currently a few tend to automatically follow its lead on emissions initiatives) the situation could be even trickier.
John Cabaniss, director of environment and energy at Global Automakers (a group that represents import vehicle manufacturers) believes that not only will it be “a challenge to first meet all of the California regulations,” it will also be difficult “to then figure out how they will transfer to other states.” Cabaniss sites issues such as a lack of EV infrastructure in some states and buyer demand for such vehicles being major obstacles.
Others believe the new regulations also have the potential to put serious strains on the ability of dealers to sell inventory, by forcing them to stock models their customers don’t want. “Already dealers have to stock less popular models to get the ones they want. With the [new ZEV] mandate it will be even worse,” said Bailey Wood, the National Automobile Dealer’s Association’s director of legislative affairs.”
However, a spokesman for CARB, Dave Clegern, says the new ZEV mandate was conceived with flexibility in mind. He points to the fact that a federal provision allows automakers to ship cars between states that have adopted the mandate, if it struggles to meet sales targets one of those states.
Furthermore, those manufacturers that exceed federal rules can also earn credits, which they can apply to state mandates. These credits also include sales of gas/electric hybrids in addition to EVs.
Yet, with demand for hybrids having barely budged from around 3 percent of total US vehicle sales in recent years, it will be interesting to see how all of this pans out (Sales for ZEVs currently account for just 0.1 percent of total U.S. vehicle demand).