As the nation debates adopting a 54.5 mpg fuel economy standard for 2025, California is planning to leap ahead once again in requiring greener vehicles than does the federal government.
Under federal law, California has a special exemption to set tighter air-quality regulations than the rest of the nation. (Its warm climate and geography may be particularly friendly to beachgoers, but unfortunately is also particularly hospitable to smog.)
In this case, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is planning to tighten air pollution standards 75 percent by 2025. This governs exhaust pollution such as carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, particulate matter, and unburned fuel, as well as vapor emissions from refueling and fuel system leaks.
CARB standards also govern emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that can only be controlled by reducing fuel consumption. The state has signed onto a bargain with the Obama administration to set these targets at the same levels as the federal government’s 54.5 mpg requirement, as long as that rule goes through.
But the state is increasing the number of “zero-emissions vehicles” it will require automakers to sell to meet the requirement from about 4 percent to about 15 percent of all vehicles sold in the state. In total it would require automakers to sell about 1.4 million plug-in hybrid, electric, and fuel-cell vehicles in the state by 2023. The bulk of these, about 900,000 would be plug-in hybrids, such as the Chevrolet Volt and Fisker Karma.
CARB will create a new designation for these plug-in hybrids: Transitional Zero Emission Vehicles, or TZEVs.
Meanwhile, Arizona has announced it will pull out of the coalition of 15 states that follow California standards, saying higher national fuel economy standards make it unnecessary.