In November, the Obama administration announced proposed rules that would strengthen fuel efficiency and carbon pollution standards for new cars and light trucks to 54.5 mpg by 2025. The rules would build on the administration's current standards, which raise the average to 35.5 mpg ending with the 2016 model year.
Last week, California went one step further, adopting new rules that require 15 percent of all cars sold in the Golden State to be electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen-powered by 2025. The result, according to the Christian Science Monitor, is that there could be “some 1.4 million electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen cars on California roads within 13 years. Today, there are 10,000 such vehicles in the state.”
The new rules also rein in emissions from conventional cars. By 2025, smog-producing pollutants must be cut by 75 percent and greenhouse-gas emissions by 50 percent compared to today's levels. “It’s a trifecta for America’s economy, competitiveness, and security that depletes our dependence on foreign oil, protects human health, and saves families money during a devastating economic downturn,” Vickie Patton, general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, told the Monitor.
Some of the best news seems to be that oil companies and the auto industry, which sued the state to stop its 1990 zero-emission rules (rules that were drastically scaled back in 2003), are cooperating this time around. “The new regulations ushered in what appears to be a new era of cooperation between automakers and the agency,” according to Bloomberg News. “Automakers testifying at the public hearing that preceded the board's vote voiced strong support for the rules even though they called on [the California Air Resources Board] to tweak various provisions in the regulations.”
However, some plug-in car advocates believe that California created a loophole that will allow a far less impressive implementation of the cleanest vehicles. Jay Friedland, legislative director for Plug In America, an electric car advocacy group, points to the new rule’s “greenhouse gas overcompliance provision,” which allows automakers to only produce about half the number of required pure electric cars it needs to produce between 2018 and 2021 under the new rule in exchange for reducing the carbon emissions from its entire fleet by 2-gram-per-mile beyond established targets. “This will result in a gaping loophole, which will cause the loss of hundreds of thousands of plug-in cars in California,” Friedland says. The Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Natural Resources Defense Council also objected to the overcompliance provision.
-- Reed McManus
Image: Ford Motor Company. The all-electric Ford Fusion, available Spring 2012.