Planet Gore

Racing into history’s dustbin: the CA electric-car mandate

The California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) once mighty ZEV (zero-emission vehicle, i.e., electric car) mandate may soon be demoted to pure symbolism.
Back in 1990, California adopted a law requiring specified percentages of all new cars sold in the state to be ZEVs: 2 percent by 1998, 5 percent by 2001, and 10 percent by 2003. The scheme was reminiscent of Soviet-style production quotas, and worked about as well. Automakers can be coerced into producing electric vehicles, but that’s no guaranty consumers will want to buy them.
Due to the vehicles’ high cost and their limited range between recharging, the consumer response to electric cars was underwhelming. CARB had to relax the quota several times, scaling back the 2003 goal from 10 percent to 2 percent in 1996.
But even that goal proved wildly unrealistic, and now CARB is proposing to diminish the mandate to 2,500 all-electric vehicles.
The aptly named Ze’ev Drori, CEO of one of the electric car companies seeking a government-guaranteed market for its product line, lamented that the proposed 2,500 vehicle mandate would “make a mockery of CARB itself.” No, Ze’ev, CARB made a mockery of itself when it tried to revive Stalin-era central planning.

Marlo Lewis is a senior fellow in environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where he researches and writes on global warming, energy policy, and regulatory process reform. He has published ...

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