The California Air Resources Board has released a new plan seeking to make nearly 100 percent of new autos sold in the state zero-emission (ZEV) or plug-in hybrid (AT-PEZ) vehicles by 2040. In the meantime, California may seek to set regulations mandating that one-seventh of all new light duty vehicles sold there carry at least plug-in hybrid electric drive capabilities. If the scheme is enacted, automakers would be forced to increase the portion of plug-in vehicles in their fleets between model years 2018-2025, culminating in a 15.4 percent mandate by the final year of the rule.

The new proposed rules will no longer exempt carmakers with fewer California sales like Volkswagen, BMW and Hyundai from the ZEV program, but would allow such companies to offset a portion of the requirement by over-complying with the overall emissions mandate.

CARB is well known for blazing its own trails when it comes to setting motor vehicle emissions standards. In 2009, California won the right to regulate emissions for cars sold within its borders after a years-long battle with the federal government, which under the Bush administration had sought to protect its status as the nation’s sole fuel economy regulator.

The state’s original Zero-Emissions Vehicle law, which went into effect in 1997, is largely credited with forcing automakers to release the first wave of modern electric vehicles in the United States, including GM’s EV1 and the original Toyota RAV4 EV. Some also believe that the new RAV4 EV and several other forthcoming limited-run plug-ins from carmakers without a full-scale electric vehicle program exist at least partially to satisfy the ZEV law.