California Air Resources Board to Hold Hearing This Week on Softening Zero-Emission Requirements

The state of California has, for a long time, been one of the most supportive states of plug-in and zero-emission vehicles. Thanks to the state’s tough Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, requiring automakers to make and sell a set percentage of zero emission vehicles in order to sell within the state, California also has the largest choice of zero emission electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and plug-in hybrid cars on sale anywhere in the U.S.

The Fiat 500e is one 'compliance car' built to satisfy current CARB regulations.

The Fiat 500e is one ‘compliance car’ built to satisfy current CARB regulations.

But a meeting to be held later this week by the California Air Resources Board — the body responsible for protecting California’s air quality and setting emissions targets for everything from transportation to heavy industry within the state — could mark a step backwards on California’s path to a zero emission future.

As GreenCarReports’ John Voelcker explains, CARB is due to hold a hearing this week which would change its 2012 Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate for what’s known as intermediate volume manufacturers.

For those who don’t know, that’s automakers who sell more than a total of 13,500 vehicles in a consecutive three-year period but less than 60,000 vehicles in a three-year period.

Under current regulations, any automaker which produces and sells more than 10,000 cars for the California market must earn a specific percentage of zero emission vehicle credits in order to sell cars in California. The ZEV credits — which can be purchased from other automakers or earned by producing a certain number of zero emission vehicles — are then used to offset the sales of non-ZEV cars. Most importantly, the ZEVs must be completely free from emissions, so only 100 percent electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles apply.

This regulation has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of zero emission vehicles made and sold in California, and while automakers that sell less than 60,000 vehicles in a three year period in California are required to only meet 60 percent of the total ZEV credits mandated of larger-scale manufacturers, there’s still a requirement that some zero emission vehicles are made.

But CARB’s proposed change would allow intermediate volume manufacturers like Jaguar Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Volvo to name a few would no-longer be required to produce any Zero Emission Vehicles to comply with CARB regulation. Instead, the proposed change would allow those automakers to use Transitional Zero-Emission Vehicles (TZEVs) to meet their required quota.

The proposed changes would allow Mitsubishi to satisfy CARB regulations with a plug-in hybrid alone.

The proposed changes would allow automakers like Mitsubishi to satisfy CARB regulations with a plug-in hybrid alone.

Unlike ZEVs, TZEVs can produce some emissions, meaning intermediate volume manufacturers could focus on producing plug-in hybrid vehicles rather than pure electric or hydrogen fuel-cell cars.

It’s worth noting at this point that Mitsubishi, and Volvo both have plans to bring plug-in hybrids to the U.S. in the coming year, while Land Rover and Subaru have already promised plug-in hybrid models will be coming in the near future. With the exception of it Mitsubishi, not one sells a 100% electric car in the U.S. at the time of writing, and even Mitsubishi’s all-electric i-Miev is struggling to reach high sales volumes.

This hearing comes at a very important time for the auto industry and for California, since under the 2012 regulations, the total percentage of plug-in vehicles produced by large and intermediate volume manufacturers was due to rise from 2015, with mainstream brands like Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Chrysler and General Motors charged with producing a total of 25,000 Zero Emission Vehicles per year from next year, up from the 7,500 annual requirement from 2014. Those targets rise again in 2018.

But the proposed changes could actually drop the total number of ZEVs needed under Californian law.

The meeting, which is due to take place on Thursday this week, will convene at 9am local time at the auditorium of the South Coast Air Quality Management District in Diamond Bar, California.

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  • Michael Thwaite

    We’re no where near the point that we can let the pressure off. The whole thing could crumble away without maintaining the current requirements.

  • Dreck Sheisse

    But would it raise the number of “TZEVs” to compensate?nThat could be worthwhile.

  • possen

    No way…the rules should be stricter