CA Will Stay The Course On Electric-Car Sales Requirements

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2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, Newport Beach, California, July 2012

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Unless you follow green cars fairly closely--or perhaps live in California--you may not know that the Golden State now requires the sale of certain number of battery electric cars.

Between 2012 and 2014, the six highest-selling carmakers in the state must sell a combined 7,500 zero-emission vehicles.

And the state will stick firmly to those goals, and far higher volumes starting in 2015, says Mary Nichols, chair of the powerful California Air Resources Board, under rules adopted last year.

Reporter David Shepardson described Nichols' comments this morning in The Detroit News.

The article takes a glass-half-empty approach, pointing out that "every major electric vehicle on the market has failed to meet expectations or sold just a few hundred vehicles."

While that is true, it fails to note that the combined three-year total of 7,500 vehicles represents, conservatively, just 3 percent of total plug-in sale projections over the same period--and perhaps 15 percent at most of total battery-electric vehicles sales over the same period.

The goal of California's zero-emission vehicle requirements is to seed electric cars with drivers, encourage development of public charging infrastructure, and push manufacturers to develop technology that can be applied to production vehicles.

Those will be battery electric cars, since they are cheaper to engineer and fuel for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles is still largely unavailable.

CARB is permitted to set more aggressive air-pollution restrictions for the state under historical precedent, because the state had already regulated emissions before the 1971 formation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

With the exception of Nissan, which sells thousands of Leaf electric cars a year in the state, the five other makers subject to the ZEV mandate are largely offering "compliance cars" in volumes that will keep them legal--and not a car more.

2013 Fiat 500e live photos, 2012 L.A. Auto Show

2013 Fiat 500e live photos, 2012 L.A. Auto Show

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Those include the Fiat 500e, which Chrysler said it doesn't want to build; the Toyota RAV4 EV, with a Tesla-designed powertrain; and the Chevrolet Spark EV from General Motors.

But as Nichols notes, the auto industry is still in the very earliest stages of starting to launch plug-in cars.

By 2016, when standards toughen, she says, "everyone will be buying them."

Altogether, California expects more than 15 percent of cars sold in the state by 2025 to be battery electrics or plug-in hybrids--meaning a total of 1.4 million such vehicles on the state's roads by that year--of which roughly one-third will be zero-emission electric or fuel-cell cars.

Will that happen? Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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