The WSJ [sub] reports
California regulators want zero-emission vehicles—those that don’t run on petroleum—to comprise up to 5.5% of new-car sales in the state, or roughly 81,300, in 2018. The target would rise annually to 14%, or more than 227,600, by 2025…
Tom Cackette, chief deputy executive officer of the California Air Resources Board, says his agency’s goal is to test whether electric cars can become mainstream vehicles, or wind up serving a “niche” market. Mr. Cackette said the state is investing in charging stations and other infrastructure, and he pointed to the sales of new plug-ins on the market to show that there’s a demand for the vehicles. He said he believes the California targets are feasible.
“That is a question we’ll only find out by trying,” he said. “I think [car companies] are making a pretty big investment in these vehicles, and they wouldn’t be doing that if they didn’t think there was a market there.”
Industry lobby groups are pushing California to roll the ZEV mandate into the forthcoming national CAFE standard. Small automakers like Mazda complain that placing a California ZEV mandate on top of national emissions standards would create a “costly burden…in light of the uncertain marketplace and infrastructure for electric vehicles.” And since CARB is leading the federal government by the ear towards a national standard anyway, it could simply push for a higher CAFE rate, which would at least allow firms the flexibility to comply on their own terms. Adding a major ZEV mandate won’t fundamentally change the national standard, but it absolutely will force automakers to spend huge amounts of money to develop a kind of vehicle that has major shortcomings, is only as green as local electricity generation, and has yet to prove itself with consumers. Whatever you think of emissions standards increases, it should be clear that consumers should determine what mix of technologies can best serve their needs while lowering fuel consumption and pollution.