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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Comments (11)
  1. If Tesla offer its blue star sedan for only $35k and have over 150 miles range with BMW 3-series performance, then it will happen.

    If major automakers can offer a mid size electric sedan that looks good and have decent performance that matches 4-cylinder Accord and Camry while costing only $30k or less (such as $199/month lease), then it will happen...

  2. I live in Cali and generally I hate mandates. But, it is very necessary in order to get EVs in the marketplace for consumers to try and buy. So far, only Tesla, Nissan and BMW seem to be taking BEVs seriously. Hopefully, the mandates will give way to future BEVs, which are both profitable and popular.

  3. How is BMW serious about it if it doesn't have anything for "sale"?

  4. While BMW may not be selling EVs right now, it has plans to do start this year with the BMWi 3. Besides, in the past years it has been running pilots with the Mini EV and the Active E that have given it real-life feedback about both technology and consumer's usage patterns.

  5. Well, many automakers are "planning" to do something and "doing pilot programs"... But until they actually sell them, it is just all talks.

  6. EV sales will increase greatly when car companies care to demonstrate they have a car that will run 65 mph for 100 miles...what is needed is a "freeway car." Not a low speed commuter. To my knowledge only Tesla drive lines offer that capability presently. And, the other companies are waiting for a better battery(read low-cost, high density here).

  7. I'm glad that the state of California is trying to push the progress along. I get so sick of all the big car company commercials claiming to have made a "revolutionary" vehicle. The only ones doing something revolutionary are Tesla and maybe Nissan. Everyone else is going kicking and screaming.

    I've already decided, my next vehicle will be electric, period.

  8. Howdy. Briefly, I think electric cars are the way to go but car manufacturers have little profit motive to invest heavily beyond California and other West Coast statutory requirements because they can't make enough money. Why not? First, demand is fairly low right now for all kinds of reasons, at least among mainstream consumers. Second, and I think more importantly, car dealers make their money on car maintenance, not car sales, and electric vehicles require very little maintenance (at least until batteries need to be replaced.) Once/if demand goes up they'll be able to charge more at the point of sale and dollar signs will work their magic. A bit of a chicken/egg scenario.

  9. EVs still need brakes, tires, suspension, steering, A/C, lights repair just like regular ICE, but maybe at longer interval.

    But if you are talking about "warranty services", then that might be true.

    Remember that dealers won't be in business if they don't sell the car that consumers want...

  10. EVs brakes should last the life of the vehicle because of the regen system and that mean less dust pollution from the brakes.

  11. If California had not pushed the smog issue we would not have such clean burning cars today.

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