“This is history,” said David Friedman, deputy director for clean vehicles at the Union of Concerned Scientists
In a unanimous vote on Friday, the California Air Resources Board, known as CARB, affirmed a major expansion of its Advanced Clean Car rules. According to CARB’s projection, the program would result in an additional 1.4 million zero- and near-zero-emission vehicles on the state’s roads by 2025.
Under the plan, 500,000 of those vehicles would be battery-electric or fuel-cell models that produce no tailpipe emissions. The rest would be plug-in hybrids that qualify as transitional zero-emission vehicles. The recommendation had wide support from environmentalists and many automakers before the vote.
At least one provision, however, was termed a loophole by some environmental groups. This provision would allow an automaker that surpassed the federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards in a particular year to accumulate credits. The credits could be applied in subsequent years, effectively delaying the automaker’s need to build zero-emission vehicles.
Plug In America, a nonprofit group that advocates an accelerated shift to plug-in vehicles, called the provision “a gaping loophole which will cause the loss of hundreds of thousands of plug-in cars in California.”
Mary D. Nichols, the CARB chairwoman, said in a conference call after the vote that the overcompliance allowance was “a valuable piece of the overall package.”
Hyundai was among the automakers testifying for the overcompliance rule. “This flexibility allows Hyundai to significantly overcomply with CAFE and build a somewhat smaller number of zero-emission vehicles for a short time between 2018 and 2021,” Mike O’Brien, a Hyundai product development vice president, said in a telephone interview after Friday’s vote. “It will lead to more greenhouse gas reductions by Hyundai than without the provision.”
California’s program, which is scheduled to be phased in during the 2018 model year, is part of a broader package of regulations, also approved by CARB on Friday, that includes requirements for the construction of hydrogen filling stations for fuel-cell vehicles. Reductions in greenhouse gases and smog-causing pollutants are also mandated in the program.
Ms. Nichols said that wide support from environmental groups, consumers and automakers for the recommendations made the vote “one of the easiest decisions we’ve had to make.”
Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group, qualified her praise for Friday’s outcome in a telephone interview. “In general, our reaction is that we are already building these clean cars, we hope they sell — and it’s now up to California to build the necessary electric charging stations and hydrogen fueling.”
In a news release, CARB said the program would cut greenhouse gases from new cars in California 34 percent from 2016 levels and help create 21,000 jobs in the state by 2025. By that year, one in seven new cars sold in the state would be a battery-electric, fuel-cell or plug-in hybrid, according to CARB’s projection.
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