The governors of California and seven other states said today that they intend to get 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles onto their roads by 2025, showing a determination to keep their electric vehicle mandates despite automakers' complaints.
Seven states -- Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon and Vermont -- have already adopted California rules requiring 15 percent of new vehicles sold to be zero-emission vehicles by 2025. Their definition of ZEVs includes battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell electric vehicles that run on hydrogen.
At a conference at the offices of the California Air Resources Board in Sacramento, the eight ZEV states announced an agreement to push harder to spur sales of these vehicles.
"From coast to coast, we're charging ahead to get millions of the world's cleanest vehicles on our roads," California Gov. Edmund Brown said in a statement on the pact.
As part of the nonbinding agreement, the states promised to take steps that include:
- Aligning their building codes to make it simpler to build charging stations.
- Buying more ZEVs as government fleet vehicles.
- Considering cash incentives for ZEVs and discounted electricity rates for home charging equipment.
- Developing shared standards for charging networks and common signage for roadways.
The state mandates are one of the main reasons for the recent spate of EV launches. A 15 percent market share for ZEVs in the participating states would translate to a U.S. market share of at least 3 percent, as those eight states make up 23 percent of the U.S. vehicle market.
Some automakers have bristled at the rules of the program, which forces auto companies to sell ZEVs or buy credits from rival companies that produce more ZEVs than they need to comply with the rules.
Companies including Chrysler Group, General Motors and Honda have launched battery electric vehicles -- the Fiat 500e, Chevrolet Spark EV and Honda Fit EV -- with the mandate in mind, mainly selling the cars in California or the ZEV states at first.
Some automakers, such as Nissan, with its Leaf battery electric vehicle, generated enough credits over the past year to meet their goals. But others, including Chrysler and Honda, have not sold enough ZEVs to meet their goals, so they have bought credits to avoid running afoul of the mandate.
Most of those credits are coming from Tesla Motors, which reported earning $119 million in ZEV credit sales in the first half of 2013. Tesla sold 32 times as many ZEV credits as any other company in the year ended Sept. 30, according to California ARB data released last week.
Critics of the program argue that as it ramps up, it will force auto companies to offer products that customers do not want, or make huge payments to their competitors. The participating states, which see their program as a way to cut the carbon emissions of the U.S. automobile fleet, say they will not go too far.
"We can't force people to buy cars. There's no advantage to doing that," Mary Nichols, the chair of the ARB, told reporters today. "Our goal is to work with the auto companies."
Automakers welcomed today's agreement, saying that if states follow California in taking steps to promote EVs, it will be easier to sell them.
"Honda has been supportive of California's efforts to promote consumer adoption of ultra-low carbon transportation options in that state by improving infrastructure and offering vehicle incentives," Robert Bienenfeld, senior manager of environment and energy strategy at Honda, said in a statement. "The agreement announced today is an encouraging step forward by other states to expand on these same kinds of efforts."