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Mach-E on Highway 1

The next chapter of California’s advanced clean cars regulations

11 January 2022, 14:06 GMT 4 min read

A leader among states in the realm of climate ambition, California has paved the way in setting both zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) rules and low-emission vehicle (LEV) standards since the California Air and Resources Board (CARB) adopted the first LEV regulation in 1990. California’s Advanced Clean Cars I, adopted by CARB in 2012, encompasses both LEV standards, to limit vehicle emissions, and a ZEV regulation, requiring vehicle manufacturers to offer a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles for sale. In 2021, ZEVs made up 11.5% of all light-duty vehicle sales in California, far above the 2020 national average of 1.7%, largely due to the state’s long history of clean vehicle standards. To date, sixteen states commonly known as the “177 States” have adopted versions of California’s Advanced Clean Cars I, accounting for 37% of the national light duty vehicle sales, with several more currently in the trenches of the rulemaking process. The impact of California’s clean car regulations reaches even beyond the United States, and has influenced a number of international electric vehicle (EV) regulations, including China’s New Energy Vehicle program. 

California, the Under2 Coalition Co-chair, continues to lead the electric vehicle revolution. CARB has begun the Advanced Clean Cars II rulemaking drafting process for vehicles with model years later than 2025, as Advanced Clean Cars I only includes regulations through 2025. This marks the beginning of a new era of ambitious EV regulations that will again spread to other states across the country and result in vehicle manufacturers offering a wider range of EVs than ever before. In recent years, there has been an expansion in the range of EV options available to interested buyers – options which will only continue to grow as more states enact EV requirements. In last year’s Progress and Insights Report, EV100 members reported that lack of correct vehicle type was one of the top two barriers to EV adoption. Widespread passage of clean cars regulations at the state level, along with medium- and heavy-duty EV regulations such as California’s Advanced Clean Trucks regulation, is key to getting vehicle manufacturers to offer a wider variety of EVs, resulting in consumers having more options, including electric SUVs, pickup trucks, commercial vehicles, and freight trucks, far beyond the initial hatchback model EV offerings of years past.   

An Advanced Clean Cars II rulemaking package is expected to be presented to CARB in June 2022, and a first draft was just released – including updated LEV and ZEV standards, EV charging requirements, and various other regulations. States which have already passed versions of Advanced Clean Cars I will be well-positioned to subsequently adopt these new regulations for later model years. An updated ZEV program rule is included in the draft regulations – which if finalized, would help deliver Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020 executive order calling for a 100% ZEV sales requirement by 2035, translating into an effective phase-out of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Some key stakeholders considered moving the mandate up to 2030, but ultimately that would have needed to be included in the Advanced Clean Cars rules to affect real change. However, several California cities including Culver City, Oakland, and Berkeley have adopted resolutions calling for a 2030 target, implementing a more ambitious phase-out than state requirements.  

More broadly, California has aggressive emissions reduction targets which require drastic economy-wide cutbacks. In 2016, California passed SB32 which set the statewide target for a 40% reduction of emissions below 1990 levels by 2030. The state is currently not on track to meet this target as reported in the recently released 2021 California Green Innovation Index, largely due to the state’s transportation sector emissions. The report finds that statewide emissions in California dropped only 1.6% between 2018 and 2019. To reach the 2030 target, the state requires emissions reductions at an annual rate of 4.3% – almost three times the current rate. The transportation sector remains the state’s largest source of emissions, contributing a whopping 40.7% of total emissions in 2019, (only a 2.1% decrease from 2018.) An aggressive set of Advanced Clean Cars II regulations will be critical to ensure the state is on track to meet interim targets in order to achieve the 2030 goal, and will pave a new path for other states to begin adopting these updated vehicle standards. The 177 States which have already adopted the first set of clean cars regulations will be poised to adopt the new standards for model years 2026 and beyond, which would result in an increase in the national supply of ZEVs for sale. 

Climate Group’s EV100 members have a significant footprint in California, with seven member businesses’ headquarters located in the state, including Fortune 500 companies like HP and PG&E, and transportation startups like Lime and Lyft. Over the coming months, we plan to align with other policy advocacy groups in California to amplify the voices of EV100 members and encourage the passage of an aggressive set of regulations in Advanced Clean Cars II which – along with Advanced Clean Trucks, the continued adoption of clean car regulations by other states, the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently finalized national GHG standards, and EV charging infrastructure funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – will continue to set the foundations for an EV future.