Green Update: California Law Requires More Clean Cars by 2025

January 31st, 2012

Los Angeles smog

Manufacturers are behind it, dealers hate it, but the California Air Resources Board (ARB) recently approved a plan to require automakers (those accounting for about 97 percent of new light-vehicle sales) to sell increasing volumes of electric, plug-in hybrid, or fuel cell powered cars by 2025. The target is 15.4 percent of all new cars.

That would translate to 1.4 million such cars (out of over 30 million total) on California roads. Smog emissions would be down 75 percent by 2025, global warming gases by 34 percent. These goals are similar to what the federal EPA standards proposed last year.

ARB, established by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1967, sets the rules to protect air quality in the state. The agency is unique among the states, but others can follow its regulations and standards. Ten other states have plans to adopt the new California Advanced Clean Cars regs, which could double the number of “zero-emissions” vehicles (ZEVs) on U.S. roads.

Naturally, the green groups love it. So do the major manufacturers, with reservations, though the costs of new technologies to implement the claimed $4-6,000 fuel savings over the life of the car would add about $1,900 to the price of a new car in 2025.

ACC savingsBy that time, of course, skeptical U.S. customers will be converted to ZEVs, the economy will be booming, manufacturing will be revived with plentiful jobs, and we’ll be on our way to a petroleum-free world. I’ll be dead from asthma.

The doubters notwithstanding, ARB has had a history of controversy but also major success in regulating auto emissions, the state’s number-one cause of air pollution since the 1950s.

As we said at the top, dealers hate the new provisions because they add cost to each vehicle and will force buyers to take on cars with “lesser versatility.” They imagine a scenario in which cars sit on the lot and/or sell at a loss, the cost of which will get picked up by buyers of conventional cars.

One problem could be a clause that gives special credit to carmakers that reduce fleet emissions more than required. Then they would need to sell fewer ZEVs in California. Ford, for instance, had a tremendous number of fleet sales last year, and one greener called such a cap-and-trade deal “a loophole you can drive a truck through.”

Commenters on the Automotive News story were uniformly outraged, calling the new plan Fascist, then Communist, and ranting on about the Free Market—which in regard to automobiles hasn’t existed since before World War II. The insight and education of some car fans never ceases to amaze.

Do you think the costs outweigh the benefits of the Advanced Clean Cars program? (Press release is here, stressing benefits of course.)

—jgoods

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  1. panayoti
    | #1

    Geesh, sounds like a hell of a party is being planned for these new rules. Hmmm. I wonder what would happen if no one comes??

  2. | #2

    The problem with CARB’s method is that they mandate a sales volume–without any kind of leverage on the consumer to actually buy the cars. They just say to the automakers, “you guys figure it out”, while claiming they are preserving consumer choice. Right!

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