Last Friday, the California Air Resources Board met in Riverside and unanimously decided to follow the recommendations of its staff to continue the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Program as planned, without any changes, through 2025—despite repeats of the old complaints from some in the auto industry that there is no demand for electric cars and that the (very modest) targets would be too hard to reach.
While that might not sound like a big deal, there was a bit of anxiety at Plug In America that we not allow history to repeat itself. Back in 2003, CARB responded to the same complaints from industry by sharply scaling back the program. That decision led to the founding of Plug In America, and the film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”
This time, the politics were really different. More than 600,000 plug in vehicles are now on the streets of the U.S. and nearly 2 million globally. So that helps. A wide range of speakers from around California and the clean car states (that follow California’s tougher auto emissions standards) came out to defend the electric car and encourage CARB to hang tough. The northeast was particularly well-represented with senior-level state representatives from Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut. The California New Car Dealers Association also came out in support.
Plug In America, of course, was there in force. We held an EV rally in front of the meeting with a good selection of cars (including two new Chevy Bolt EVs) and provided coffee, donuts, bumper stickers, and big EV signs for the attendees. One local Plug In America volunteer spoke movingly about how the poor air quality in California had affected her daughter’s health and that had driven her commitment to EVs. We also presented a list of over 115 local elected officials from northeast states who support the ZEV rule. Environment California, Sierra Club, Plug In America, along with Interfaith Power and Light, Union of Concerned Scientists, American Lung Association of California, CalPIRG, and the Coalition for Clean Air turned in petitions with more than 10,000 signatures in support.
This time, the politics were really different. More than 600,000 plug in vehicles are now on the streets of the U.S. and nearly 2 million globally.
Chair Mary Nichols set the tone for the meeting by starting her comments with a rhetorical poke at the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers request to the Trump Administration for a softening of federal standards, asking “what were you thinking when you threw yourselves on the mercy of the Trump Administration to try to solve your problems” that got her quoted in the New York Times.
So who saved the electric car? This time, we all did. Those who showed up, those who signed petitions and those who voted with their wallets by buying the cars. Will we need to do it again? We might, if the administration follows through on its plans to try and weaken federal standards. So stay tuned.