Today, there has been tangible progress that makes the mass proliferation of EVs tenable. Teslas are already commonplace on California highways, and nearly 100 EV models are expected to be offered for sale in the U.S. by the end of 2024 — exactly the sort of electrified future Californians envisioned more than 30 years ago.
In 1990, the creation of a GM-led electric concept called the Impact — it would later become the EV1 — buoyed hopes that electric vehicles could be a reality. Environmentalists believed that if deployed widely, EVs could diminish the brown cloud of smog that hung over greater Los Angeles. With the existence of the Impact in mind, CARB quickly passed the nation's first mandates requiring certain automakers to sell increasing numbers of ZEVs.
Other automakers scrambled to address those rules, with the likes of Toyota building electric RAV4s and Ford converting Ranger pickups to electric powertrains, both in low volumes. But none had an answer like GM and the EV1. However, when other states sought to follow the mandates, GM quickly determined the car's battery performance would deteriorate in cold-weather environments, and it fought back against CARB.
In the aftermath of the EV1's short life, Lloyd's job was to preside over an ongoing fight. Had GM scuttled the EV1 so it could more persuasively argue that a market for electric vehicles didn't exist and regulations were onerous? Or were CARB's regulations truly too far ahead of the technology and marketplace, requiring a further delay in their implementation?
"Environmental groups were saying to me early on, 'Look at these surveys,' where they'd ask, 'Would you buy an electric car?' Yes. 'Would you like a zero-emission car?' Yes," he said. "But it's a different question when you say, 'OK, are you willing to pay X dollars more for that car?"
GM sued California in February 2001, seeking to undo the already-relaxed regulations that required ZEVs. In 2003, the automaker and CARB reached a compromise that again delayed the mandate and offered low-polluting powertrain options beyond electric cars.
At GM, the compromise was welcomed.
"We were never afraid of a technology-forcing aspect; we were willing to accept that and work through that," said Dennis Minano, GM's vice president of public policy and chief environmental officer at the time. "This was creating a whole segment. There has to be a rational aspect to do all this. ... I mean, we can't even chart a path to get there."