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The Push for Zero Emission Vehicles

The following article appeared in Sacramento's Capitol Weekly.

California has long been at the national forefront of building a sustainable “green car” marketplace, and again this year, elected leaders in the Golden State are considering several proposals that support the zero emission vehicles (ZEV) market.

Nearly three years ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and the governors of Oregon and six Northeastern states committed to a goal of placing 3.3 million ZEVs on their roads by 2025.  This commitment works hand-in-hand with California’s ZEV sales requirement, reflecting the state’s unique authority to set environmental regulations not only for itself, but also for any other state that chooses to follow California’s program.

Global Automakers’ member companies—which together operate 77 facilities and employ more than 11,000 people in the California —have been leaders in green vehicle technology.   Since the introduction of the first hybrid electric vehicle a quarter of a century ago, they have continued to innovate.  Thanks to our members’ investments, consumers today have more green choices than ever before: battery, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles.  In 2015, our member companies accounted for three-quarters of new green vehicles sales in the state. 

California is also investing millions of dollars each year to support the development of a mass market for ZEVs.  Vehicle incentives, infrastructure development, and high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access, among others, help spur the market.

Yet, despite everyone’s efforts, many challenges remain.

Even though 2015 was a record sales year for automakers, the percentage of ZEV sales decreased eight percent year over year in California.  The Northeast states lag in ZEV sales behind California – presently accounting for less than half of one percent of the regional market – despite some states’ offering consumer incentives and efforts to build convenient refueling stations.

To put everything into perspective, automakers will have to sell approximately 340,000 ZEVs each and every year from now until 2025 to meet the goal.  But in 2015, collective ZEV sales amounted to 67,000 vehicles.

California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols made it clear that California’s leadership can only be part of the equation, telling the Buffalo (NY) News that other states must invest even more in order to achieve the collective ZEV goals:

“We won’t succeed in building an electric vehicle market, which is what we really want, unless we have other states involved in this effort as well.”

Experience tells us that producing and marketing ZEVs are not enough by themselves to build a robust and sustainable ZEV market.

At this stage, substantial and sustained state support is required.  That is why Global Automakers supports AB 1710 by Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon.  The bill would bring together key state regulators – most notably the California Air Resources Board – to collaborate and implement a comprehensive program to support the state’s goals for ZEV sales.

We also support efforts to strengthen the state’s HOV “Green Sticker” program for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and expand the state’s HOV “White Sticker” program for battery and fuel cell electric vehicles.

Global Automakers and our member companies remain committed to making ZEV technology successful.  And AB 1710 demonstrates the state’s commitment to building sustainable markets for green cars. The Northeast states should follow California’s lead by enacting their own comprehensive approach on incentives to support their ZEV goals.

With so much at stake, California and all participating ZEV states must increase – not scale back – their shared efforts to grow the market.

The road ahead will be steep.  To meet the challenging targets set by the Governor, we need consistent and ongoing support from all stakeholders.  The success of California’s ZEV program is inextricably linked with that of the Northeastern states.  California’s support for programs that encourage consumers to consider driving green cars is showing the way.

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