- Environmentalists are urging California regulators to consider a more aggressive path toward the state’s goal of ensuring all new passenger vehicles sold in California are zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVs, by 2035.
- The California Air Resources Board issued proposed regulations to achieve this goal in April — first outlined in an executive order by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, in September 2020 — which, if approved by the board, would put the state on track 68% of model year 2030 car sales would be clean cars.
- However, some groups argued at an official hearing Thursday that it was not an aggressive enough target. Each car sold will be on the road for more than a decade, said Daniel Barad, senior policy advocate at the Sierra Club. “So every year of lower goals means we’re leaving [emissions] Reductions on the table for years to come. We believe the turnover requirement should be increased to at least 75% by 2030,” he said. Other stakeholders, including those in the automotive industry, said the proposed regulations could be difficult to meet.
New EV market share in California increased from 7.8% in 2020 to 12.4% in 2021, according to CARB, and about 74% of drivers in the state said they have at least some interest in the EV market. The Advanced Clean Cars II rule proposal, which the agency released in April, includes implementing the state’s annual ZEV requirements for new car sales — starting at 35% in 2026 and increasing to 68% in 2030 and eventually the 100th % target by 2035.
One of the biggest challenges California will face in meeting the 2035 goal is actually seeing that level of ZEV manufacturing from the auto industry and then commercializing it to consumers. Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign at the Center for Biodiversity, to Utility Dive. The regulations that CARB eventually enacts could also impact other states, he added, such as Section 177 states — that is, the other states that adopt California’s Section 177 Clean Air Emission Vehicle and ZEV regulations act have taken over.
CARB held the first of two hearings on the proposed regulations on Thursday, with more than 100 public commentators lining up in person and virtually to weigh the proposal. A second hearing is scheduled for August.
“Over the past three decades, the zero-emission vehicle regulations passed by CARB have acted as a catalyst, motivating manufacturers to both make internal combustion engine vehicles cleaner and develop zero-emission technologies,” said Liane Randolph, chair of the agency.
The regulations “are one of the most important air and climate pollution regulations that will be presented to this body”, said David Reichmuth, senior engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Transportation Program.
He urged the board to consider a higher target of 75% ZEV sales by 2030, saying “It’s feasible and necessary to reduce emissions as quickly as possible.”
“In order for the state to meet its federal air quality obligations and do its part to help slow the climate crisis, we need to significantly reduce emissions in the light transportation sector — and this rule is California’s best hope of meeting that,” agreed Barad of the Sierra Club .
However, other stakeholders, including those from the automotive industry, advocated a more cautious approach to decarbonising the transport sector.
Vehicle dealers can’t sell vehicles they don’t have, said Anthony Bento, director of legal and regulatory affairs at the California New Car Dealers Association.
“We fear that the global shortage of key materials needed to build electric vehicles, such as B. lithium, could severely impact the supply of zero-emission vehicles during the ACC II compliance period,” Bento said. “Pandemic experience shows that a decline in new vehicle supply has a direct impact on the affordability of new and used vehicles. This hurts low- and middle-income consumers the most…” he added.
The proposed regulations are “extremely challenging,” said Jenny Gilger, vice president at American Honda Motor, especially in the early years of the program and for Section 177 states.
“From the point of view of the viability of the program, there are legitimate concerns. According to a market analysis we conducted, traditional automakers need to increase EV sales by five to twenty times current levels, depending on the state, in just three years just to meet 2026 requirements,” she said.
Another concern for environmental groups is recent changes made to the proposal by CARB employees that offer automakers more flexibility, Sasan Saadat, senior research and policy analyst at Earthjustice, told Utility Dive. The original proposal, released in April, would have allowed automakers different credits to meet their requirements up to a certain cap – for example, 15% of annual sales requirements could have been covered with historical credits stemming from previous CARB regulations .
But a new change to the proposal would allow automakers to combine those “caps” and either apply them all at once or spread them out as they see fit, he said, adding in a follow-up email based on preliminary analysis by environmental groups worry that an automaker that chooses to allocate its credit all at once could essentially achieve compliance without actually having to produce any new ZEVs in the early years of the program.