ZEV mandate: How to make a bad idea worse
California is a trendsetter. Americans hungrily emulate all things California -- from fashions to lifestyles.
Unfortunately, the same seems true about the Golden State's wrong-headed zero-emissions mandate that will require automakers to deliver a specified number of electric, fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Most of the 10 states that routinely adopt California's emissions and fuel requirements seem ready to follow suit with the mandate.
The rule requires that by 2025 15.4 percent of all new cars sold in the state be so-called zero-emission vehicles. That's about 270,000 vehicles annually. It toughens California's current ZEV mandate, which has been on the books since 1990 and proved to be a costly dead end.
There are several major problems:
The ZEV mandate violates the intent and spirit of the Obama administration's proposed national fuel economy standards for the 2017 to 2025 model years.
From the beginning, the California ZEV mandate has tried to dictate technology rather than setting standards and allowing the industry to find solutions.
The California Air Resources Board has yet to set requirements for each automaker. They will be based on a company's size, sales volume in California and the types of vehicles it plans to sell.
If other states adopt the mandate, it will mean more pressure to sell plug-in hybrids and pure EVs -- as many as 810,000 a year, according to one trade group estimate. But last year those vehicles accounted for just 0.1 percent of total U.S. sales: fewer than 18,000. Worse, nearly two-thirds of U.S. hybrid buyers returning to the market in 2011 chose something besides another hybrid, according to an R.L. Polk study.
Clearly, consumers may not want to buy what CARB says they should. It's long past time for CARB to use common sense and stop trying to dictate technology.