California Renews its Leadership on Zero Emission Vehicles

, research and deputy director, Clean Vehicles | November 17, 2011, 10:52 am EDT
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California announced their intentions to increase the zero emission vehicle standards (ZEV) through 2025 on Wednesday while I was attending the first press day of the LA Auto Show. If adopted, the standards would require automakers to increase the number of plug-in hybrid, battery electric, and fuel cell vehicles they sell, reaching 15 percent of the new vehicle sales by 2025. This is great news for consumers, meaning more clean-vehicle options to choose from over the coming years. 

2012 Ford C-Max Plug-in Hybrid at the LA Auto Show

At the auto show, some of these advanced vehicles are on display. These vehicles range from plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt and the upcoming Ford C-Max (shown), battery electrics like the newly unveiled production model 2012 Fit EV, the Ford Focus BEV, and Coda sedan I mentioned in my last blog post.  Also on display were the Hyundai Tuscon and the Honda Clarity fuel cell vehicles.

The good news is that many of these are production models, not concepts that will never see the light of a dealer showroom. But turning these vehicles from a niche market into a mass market success is going to take time.

A steady level of investment by automakers and fuel providers is needed in the coming years to drive down costs, and make these vehicles more affordable to millions of car buyers.

2012 Honda Fit EV at the LA Auto Show

Automakers need to continue investing in the transformative technologies we need to help solve our energy security, air quality, and climate challenges.  Just like regulations were required to put seat belts and catalytic converters on the vehicles we drive today, the ZEV program is needed to ensure automakers deliver clean and affordable vehicles we need for the future.

To increase the likelihood of meeting our 2050 climate goals, California should go even further and require at least 18 percent of new vehicles sold in 2025 to be plug-in hybrid, battery electric, or fuel cells.

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  • Clearly, the California Air Resources Board should receive our collective support on their renewed push to further advance and clean up passenger cars and this announcement at this year’s LA Auto Show is well timed. As most of you know, the integrity of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard is constantly being challenged by regulated parties would prefer to find a way not to comply with the standard’s 10% reduction in carbon content requirement in transportation fuels sold in California by 2020. In fact, requests for more reviews of the standard’s progress and to have off ramps and safety valves appears to be a growing mantra at LCFS Advisory Committee meetings.

    With this in mind, we must also see how we can integrate advanced technology with low carbon fuels this next go around in the ZEV rules. I was very encouraged to see that the Honda Civic Natural Gas received the 2012 Green Car of the Year, beating out its electric counterparts. In my opinion, this acknowledgement has been long overdue as natural gas is a clean, domestic, low carbon and affordable alternative to foreign oil. Further, it could use renewable natural gas that can practically eliminate its carbon content by 90%. This coming year, let’s work together and further advance near zero technologies using a full lifecycle basis: natural gas, renewable natural gas, hybrids using dedicated low carbon fuels, fuel cells and battery electric powered cars alike! Together we can win this fight and make a real difference on California’s roads and beyond!