California adopts advanced clean car rules

The state of California passed a potentially historic mandate for increasing the required number of plug-in and zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs) sold in the state to 15.4 per cent of all new vehicles by 2025.

The state predicts that by that time, 1.4 million vehicles on Californian roads will be zero or what it calls “transitional zero emissions vehicles” that run mostly on electricity, like the Chevrolet Volt.

Vehicles with a large battery pack but a gasoline back-up power source will make up the majority of sales of the newly mandated ZEVs, predicts the California Air Resources Board, with pure battery electric vehicles and fuel cells expected to make up 500,000 of those 1.4 million vehicles.

The standards kick in with a 34 per cent reduction in 2016 greenhouse gas emissions for all vehicles starting with the 2017 model year, standards reached in consultation with the U.S. federal government, CARB said. The U.S. government adopted California’s most recent greenhouse gas emissions standards in 2010, after 10 other states adopted the same tougher emissions rules, following a protracted legal battle with auto makers. CARB also expects the U.S. government to adopt similar rules that will parallel these, making for new cleaner, tougher de facto national emissions standards.

And what California and especially the U.S. does nationally is key for Canadians, because our countries’ aligned emissions and safety rules means that how these new rules shape American vehicles will also largely shape what’s on Canadian roads in the next 15 years as well.

The new rules also call for a reduction in pollution by 75 per cent from 2014 levels, as well as increased support for the commercialization of hydrogen fuelling stations for fuel cell vehicles. These FCV pumps are sparse in California now, and virtually non-existent in Canada.

CARB says these changes will add an average of $1,900 (U.S.) to the cost of a vehicle, but says that consumers will save an average of $4,000 over the life of the vehicle.

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