- General Motors (GM) has called for a national program to promote electric vehicles (EVs) modeled on California’s sales mandate for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). The proposal was submitted as part of the automaker’s comments on the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back tailpipe emissions standards set under the Obama administration.
- The national sales mandate could get more than 7 million EVs on the roads by 2030, according to GM, while cutting a total of 375 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions between 2021 and 2030. In an editorial for USA Today, GM CEO Mary Barra said the nationwide ZEV program would "help move the U.S. to a leadership position in electrification” and would “create jobs through the expansion of battery and electric vehicle research."
- GM has said it will release more than 20 models of EVs around the world by 2023.
A national ZEV program could push more automakers to invest in electrification technology, and lower the overall price by getting more cars on the market. It’s also a keen business move for a company like GM, which has already committed to a fleet of EV models and would benefit from a national sales target. Automakers would also benefit from the flexibility of a national target that replaces narrower statewide ZEV targets (similarly, automakers have said they want to maintain a national emissions reduction target rather than meeting a patchwork of state targets).
California’s ZEV program has a goal of 1.5 million cars by 2025 and 5 million by 2030. According to state statistics, more than 410,000 ZEVs have been sold as of July 2018, and ZEVs accounted for 5% of new cars sales in California in 2017, up from 3.8% the year before.
Environmentalists, however, seem skeptical of GM’s endorsement of a ZEV mandate after the auto industry lobbied the Trump administration to roll back the emissions standards. Sierra Club Clean Transportation for All Campaign Director Gina Coplon-Newfield said in a statement that GM was "trying to gaslight the American people at the expense of our air, health, and pocketbook," and called the support a "a desperate attempt to distract" from the fuel economy rollback.
While the tailpipe standards would have required automakers to ratchet down emissions across their entire fleets year by year, eventually achieving an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, an electric car sales mandate could hypothetically let an automaker sell the required number of electric cars and pump out more SUVs or high-emitting vehicles.
It’s unclear how the Trump administration will respond, although Republicans have criticized California’s sales mandate and the administration has indicated it will explore revoke the state’s authority to set its own fuel economy standards.