For the past few years, several of the electric-car models on sale in the U.S. have been "compliance cars."
That means they are built primarily to satisfy California's zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate, and are generally only available in that state and perhaps a few other electric-car friendly markets.
General Motors is aiming for more widespread sales of the 238-mile 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, which went on sale in California yesterday.
While the first cars will be sold in California and Oregon, two markets where electric cars are common and well accepted, the Bolt EV will be available across the nation within six months.
Because of its particular enthusiasm for electric cars, though, it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect California to deliver up to half of all Bolt EV sales.
GM will likely sell vastly more Bolt EVs in the state than it needs to comply with the California ZEV mandate, in fact.
First 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV buyers, Fremont, California: Bobby Edmonds, Bill Mattos, Steve HenryEnlarge Photo
That's the conclusion our reader DevRoot came to after reading the California regulations.
In an analysis provided in the comments of a previous Bolt EV article, DevRoot calculated that GM needs to accumulate around 27,000 ZEV credits for this year and next year.
To comply with the zero-emission vehicle sales requirement, carmakers must have a certain amount of credits, a number dictated by their average sales in California.
The 27,000-credit figure is based on GM's average sales of around 198,000 vehicles in California over the past three years.
Note that in addition to earning credits by selling zero-emission vehicles, automakers can also buy them from competitors.
Of GM's current target, approximately 1,600 credits must come solely from zero-emission vehicles, while the rest can also be attained through sales of ZEVs, "Transitional Zero Emission Vehicles" (TZEV)—otherwise known as plug-in hybrids and range-extended electric cars.
The TZEV category for General Motors includes the current Chevy Volt and the upcoming Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid.
Each Bolt EV is worth 4 credits—due to its longer range—and for 2016, GM will also be able to count the Chevy Spark EV, which is worth 3 credits.
The Spark EV is an electric version of the previous-generation Spark hatchback, and qualifies as a true compliance car.
It is only sold in California, Oregon, and Maryland, and will be phased out as GM ramps up Bolt EV production.
To meet the 1,600-credit requirement for ZEVs with just the Bolt EV, GM would only need to sell 400 of the new 238-mile electric car.
GM could also satisfy its entire 27,000-credit requirement with just the Bolt EV by selling 6,750 cars in California.
In other words, if Bolt EV sales in California and the other 10 states that use California's rules total only 6,750 cars, then it's a compliance car.
If, however, Chevy sells more than that number, or sells significant numbers of the 238-mile electric hatchback outside those states, it's not.
Moreover, the carmaker already has a stockpile of credits, enough that it would not theoretically have to sell any electric cars at all over the next year.
Even under more stringent rules that raise the numbers required starting in 2018, GM would only need to sell 1,400 cars per year to meet its minimum ZEV requirement.
These numbers represent quite small production volumes, and regardless of the California requirement, GM plans to sell the Bolt EV in all 50 states.
For its part, GM has only said that it has the capability to build as many cars as the market demands.