By on December 13, 2017

electrify-america-ev-charging-station, Electrify America

Compared to the rest of the United States, California is on the bleeding edge of government-appointed environmentalism. When the Trump administration suggested reexamining Obama-era fuel economy and emissions standards, The Golden State was the first to complain, saying it would not be adjusting its goals just because the rest of the country may. It also has pretty serious mandate on zero-emission vehicles — one that forces 15 percent of all new vehicles sold in the state to use zero-emission powertrains by 2025.

While California isn’t alone — nine other states have followed its lead since Trump took office — it is the keystone star on America’s flag pushing to maintain expand fuel regulations. Automakers have noticed and, despite previously having agreed with President Obama’s emission standards several years back, they’re launching a counter-offensive.

Arguing before a U.S. House panel, the Association of Global Automakers complained that California’s ZEV mandate threatens a single national standard for fuel economy.

On the one hand, the state seems impossibly ravenous for electrification and green solutions. On the other, most automakers have promised widespread electrification by 2025 anyway — so it shouldn’t really matter. But it does matter, and John Bozzella, president of the Association of Global Automakers, who told the House Energy and Commerce Committee why.

“The ZEV program produces no incremental nationwide [greenhouse gas] emission benefits despite the high burden placed on vehicle manufacturers. Current corporate average fuel economy and GHG emissions standards already specify each manufacturer’s total fleet-wide emissions, and therefore, in a system that averages together all vehicles in a manufacturer’s fleet, the fleet-wide emissions standards act as a cap when combined with an overall compliance fleet strategy,” he explained.

Automakers had previously changed their tune on corporate average fuel economy (CAFE), stating that the 2022-25 model year standards didn’t take into account compliance costs and lower-than-anticipated fuel prices. A 54.5 mpg average may be less feasible when gas is under $3 per gallon and everyone wants a crossover or SUV. (In its technical assessment report, issued before the 2016 decision to maintain existing CAFE targets, the EPA stated that current technological trends have light-duty vehicles on track to hit roughly 51 mpg by 2025.) But the Trump administration may move the goalpost even closer to appease manufacturers.

However, it’s worth mentioning that automakers have to take into account mandates from the EPA, NHTSA and California’s Air Resources Board. A separate ZEV quota for a handful of states complicates their strategy further. Looking at the situation from this angle makes manufacturers easier to sympathize with, and trade groups have made similar requests during NAFTA negotiations. The overriding theme here is for the government to keep things simple so manufacturing can stay predictable.

Of course, carmakers are also in the business of making money, and saving capital is just as good as generating revenue. According to Automotive News, Bozzella said the ZEV mandate has already cost the auto industry $24 billion.

“Manufacturers are also offering consumers massive incentives — in some instances as high as tens of thousands of dollars — to get them to buy electric-drive vehicles. The reality is that consumers are not embracing these technologies at the desired or projected rates, especially in states that are not investing sufficiently in the charging and hydrogen infrastructure needed to support the vehicles,” Bozzella told the House Committee.

Last year, EV sales didn’t make up one percent of the total new vehicle market. But California and several other states are bent on putting millions of zero-emission models on the road by 2025. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers President Mitch Bainwol says he’s concerned consumers wouldn’t even buy advanced fuel-saving technologies if gas prices remained low.

He’s also disagreed with the EPA’s 2016 assessment that manufacturers should be able to meet the fuel mandates with advanced gasoline vehicles, citing a study by SAE International, Novation Analytics, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, that estimates just about every vehicle sold in the U.S. for the 2025 model year will need to be a hybrid to hit the mark.

Obviously, environmental groups oppose the suggestion that these regulations are too hard on manufacturers. Andrew Linhardt, deputy legislative director for transportation at the Sierra Club, said automakers were hypocritical to go after the ZEV program — especially considering “they are not doing any of the work to sell those vehicles.”

Likewise, Margo Oge, former director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation, stated she was “surprised and disappointed to see testimony from car companies attacking the importance of the ZEV mandate and how it is putting a burden on [said] car companies.”

(Correction: A previous version of this story stated that federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets had been lowered to roughly 51 mpg by the target year of 2025. Actually, the findings of last year’s technical assessment report stated that current trends would see the U.S. light duty vehicle fleet average 50-52.6 mpg by 2025. The preexisting 54.5 mpg target still stands. This story has been updated to reflect this.)

[Image: Volkswagen Group]

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44 Comments on “Automakers Formally Take Aim at California’s Zero-emission Vehicle Mandate...”


  • avatar
    th009

    “Last year, EV sales didnt make up one percent of the total new vehicle market.”

    But the 15% ZEV mandate isn’t national. And this year, EVs are around 5% of total passenger vehicle sales in California, even with a model selection that is still quite limited. In that context, 15% in 2025 doesn’t seem that big of a stretch.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    The real answer to this problem is to get the government out of the auto industry completely, because “safety” and fuel economy is none of the government’s business to begin with.

    Cars are clean and safe enough. The people who cared about such things won. Time to declare victory and dismantle the EPA, NHTSA and FMVSS.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Right, because there’s no way that we could move backwards on safety or pollution.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Public safety, pollution, and energy policy are certainly within the government’s purview.

      Perhaps you don’t remember the days when 50k+ Americans were dying each year on the roads, and most cities’ air was like Beijing, with no care about it from the auto mfrs. That’s about when people cried out for the government to “do something”.

      Today, we have the ability to shop for vehicles using standards put in place by the government. How else would you know what the crash test results were for your car – just let other consumers report on how they fared in accidents with uncontrolled variables?

      Everybody’s a libertarian until they find they’re powerless to solve a problem themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        I don’t CARE what the crash test results are for any new car I could buy right now because they’re ALL acceptable.

        I don’t CARE about fuel economy because buying gas is just part of the price of owning a car.

        I DO care about why no one’s ever stated an objective, verifiable target for “safety,” “fuel economy” or any other metric with which we measure modern cars, but I think we all know why that is.

        If we’re going to involve The State in something, we should damn sure have objective goals in place to determine how much work should be done and what constitutes achievement, so we can have some idea of when The State can rightly bugger off.

        Otherwise, We The People will be subjected to a neverending parade of ever-tightening restrictions on the basis of not having done “enough” about problems which are themselves of questionable validity.

      • 0 avatar
        CombiCoupe99

        I lament the insane amount of safety features we all have to buy. I would be just fine driving a less safe car if it were less expensive / easier to maintain. The market has nothing for me because the government has decided I need to be cocooned in comfort and safety.

        When did we all agree to become soft and weak?

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          “The market has nothing for me because the government has decided I need to be cocooned in comfort and safety.

          When did we all agree to become soft and weak?”

          The base model Jeep Wrangler might interest you. It’s over in this corner,,
          sir. /salesman

          If it’s still too comfortable, you can always leave the soft top at home.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      “The real answer to this problem is to get the government out of the auto industry completely, ”

      At least until the next time the manufacturers need to be bailed out.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Whenever I hear someone say the EPA should be dismantled, I know they haven’t seen much of the world, especially the likes of India or China.

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        Whenever I hear someone say that governments should have more power to tell people what to do, I know they haven’t seen much of the world.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        “Whenever I hear someone say the EPA should be dismantled, I know they haven’t seen much of the world…”

        They don’t even need to leave the country. Google the following:

        -Donora smog
        -Black Tuesday St. Louis
        -Times Beach, Missouri
        -Love Canal

        Seriously.

        I’m amazed at the amount of damage people are willing to do to themselves (or let others do to them) in the name of “freedom ‘n whiskey.”

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “-Black Tuesday St. Louis”

          I don’t want to go back to 1930s America. I want to go back to 2004 America (maybe 2012 America for California).

          I feel like there is some middle ground between ENJOY THE DEATH SMOG and zero emission/ban all the ICE cars legislation.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Fundamentally, this isn’t an argument about EVs; it’s an argument about states’ rights.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Statists 2008: Elections have consequences, we live in a Federalist system. Deal with it.
      Statists 2017: We won’t kowtow to Washington DC, we have state’s rights! Deal with it.

      Funny that.

      Oh the folly of Man.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Unless, of course, the state’s right in question is whether people can smoke weed, whether two guys named Jim can get married, whether some states have stricter pollution standards than others…

        …in which case the Big Gubmint Federal Thugs are right there with their jackboots on the throats of the poor, pitiful states.

        It’s enough to make a patriot want to dump a big box of Trump Steaks into San Francisco Bay.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’m in preference to a confederation vs Federalism, but this means very little can be forced onto all states/regions. This nullifies much of the work of the two party false dichotomy which is why neither ideology would support it. There are obvious constitutional issues as well.

          Personally what I can’t stand is hypocrisy. You can’t praise Federalism in one period and then essentially fight it in another, its a sign of idiocy in addition to being hypocritical.

          I doubt the White House is actually thinking about this, but the economic power coupled with the number of monied foreign nationals in California really does threaten the Union long term. I’m not a fan of Fedgov no matter who is supposedly in charge, but they will not let go of their military infrastructure in the state should it actually try to secede one day – which means bloodshed. A prudent NSC would start to quietly counter this threat now, unless of course the desired end goal is the breakup of the Union (which I believe it is).

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Manufacturers are also offering consumers massive incentives — in some instances as high as tens of thousands of dollars — to get them to buy electric-drive vehicles. The reality is that consumers are not embracing these technologies at the desired or projected rates, especially in states that are not investing sufficiently in the charging and hydrogen infrastructure needed to support the vehicles”

    1. I don’t know which mfrs are discounting EVs by multiples of $10k.

    2. Projected rates of EV adoption are *always* exaggerated, serving as useful fodder for discussions such as these. The tree-huggers need to be more realistic.

    3. Tesla figured out years ago that the states couldn’t be relied upon to provide infrastructure, so they took it upon themselves. The Chademo and CCS infrastructure has remained lean because of such reliance. Hydrogen is a joke, and Toyota/Honda/Hyundai’s efforts with H2 vehicles are an embarrassment to the alternative fuels movement.

    4. One area the Feds *could* help is in developing and enforcing a common Fast-DC charging standard. EV adoption has many obstacles, but multiple charging standards ranks high among them.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      SCE – in one sense the manufacturers are offering big discounts on EVs since they are losing money on every one they sell even before any manufacturer discount is provided on the retail sticker price. Tesla lost about $25,000 per vehicle in the 3rd quarter of 2017, and I’ve seen estimates that GM loses about $9,000 per Bolt. You are certainly correct that offering a single plug standard would be very helpful in making current and future recharging infrastructure more useful, although I’m not sure a Tesla owner would be very happy to pull up to a supercharging station only to find it full of lowly Leaf and Bolt drivers.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Ironically, today’s 150k+ Model S and X owners will soon find themselves outnumbered by 400k+ Model 3 owners, some of whom are willing to pay the fee for Supercharger access.

    • 0 avatar
      mike9o

      Any manufacturer offering fuel cell vehicles is easily supporting them with tens of thousands if not $100,000+.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Norway is the only country in the world that has achieved the CA desired level of electric vehicle sales percentages. All Jerry Brown needs to do is give $15,000 to $70,000 in purchase discounts (EV buyers don’t pay new car taxes in Norway), add another $5,000 to $20,000 in operating expense discounts (free recharging, free parking, exemptions from road and ferry tolls, no annual licensing fees), and other incentives such as use of bus lanes, and I’m sure that California can achieve 25% EV sales levels. If Jerry Brown is really serious about increasing EV use, all he needs to do is find the funding necessary to provide sufficient bribes so that more people can afford to buy Leafs, Bolts, i3, eGolfs, and Teslas, which shouldn’t be a problem – just hike up those low CA taxes, or cut back a bit on those state pension contributions, or cut back state benefits going to that small group of illegal immigrants. I’m sure the border jumpers, teachers, police, prison guards, movie stars, and silicon valley billionaires won’t mind making a few more sacrifices to save the planet.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Hmmm… I have to agree.

    • 0 avatar
      kosmo

      Even with gas at $3 a gallon, Norway can do a lot with all that North Sea oil money of theirs. I remember several years ago when a Norwegian politician was being interviewed and he said politics was so boring because Norway could afford to satisfy both parties, and still put some money aside for the future.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    Mandating…that people buy something.

    Let that sink in.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Try to see it from the perspective of The Enlightened, will you?

      How else will they ever get their utopia if they don’t use The State to force billions of disposable nobodies to play along?

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        The enlightened elites are so sophisticated that they have forgotten the etymology of utopia. Coined by Thomas More,ancient Greek ou (not) and topos (place) no place – and More meant it that way, not as an achievable place where everything is as perfect as possible. What is achievable is the unwarranted feeling of moral superiority in striving for it.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Hey, that’s what the Affordable Care Act did.

      Maybe California should penalize people if they *don’t* buy an EV.

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        Penalizing people for not buying a clean enough car is already happening in Europe where London charges higher entry fees to cars that are insufficiently green, and Paris banned all cars from before 1997 and will ban all fossil fuel cars, etc.

  • avatar
    AeroDocGuy

    About those unintended consequences, since 40% of the corn crop (#2 yellow) goes to producing ethanol, won’t mandated electric cars collapse the Agricultural business? Oh right, Farmers will get free money from the feds. That’s the plan…

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Matt, if you use a one-off bill to reframe environmental policy as “government-appointed environmentalism,” you reduce TTAC to the playground of simpletons shouting slogans. There’s only so much you can expect cooler, smarter, thinking heads like FreedMike, SCE and others to maintain the level to what we’ve come to expect from TTAC. Maybe you should think about that for a second.

  • avatar
    CombiCoupe99

    We need to leave California alone – let them try to legislate progress. If they are successful – great. More likely, they will simply fail. You can’t force an idea / an ideology / an economy. Lets simply watch and see what happens to them.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Silicon Valley is in California.

      They’re doing just fine as far as progress goes.

      I wouldn’t mind moving there (and I’ve worked for a couple of SV companies already), but the word is out about the pleasant weather and the hot job market — and so everyone has bid up the housing prices there.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Is this a new weekly feature of finding articles to accompany the “salmon pant wearing dude who thinks he has to hold the electrical charging cord”?

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Looks like it’s time for another 6-month hiatus from the echo chamber. See y’all in May.

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