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Challenging California's Emissions Laws Could Drastically Affect State's EV Industry

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【Summary】The Trump administration’s decision to fight California on its emissions regulations could kill the uprising of electric vehicles in the state and the U.S.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Aug 11, 2018 12:00 PM PT
Challenging California's Emissions Laws Could Drastically Affect State's EV Industry

California is one of the, if not the, strictest states in the United States when it comes to emission regulations. Back in 2009, the federal government allowed California to set its own emission standards for vehicles. The state chose to set more stringent standards than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) previously had set. Since 2009, nine other states have adopted California's ZEV program. 

Essentially, what California did is jumpstart the electrified and alternative-power movement in the automotive industry. The state became the target for automakers developing electric vehicles, hybrids, and fuel-cell powertrains. There's a reason why automakers and companies continue to unveil innovative vehicles in California, like UPS teaming with Thor Trucks for electric delivery vehicles.  


Over the years, California has continued to utilize its size to encourage both small and large companies to chase fuel-efficient vehicles. It's the reason why Tesla came out with unique electric cars and why the automotive industry has started to explore a massive switch from practically no EVs to the majority of automakers having at least one electrified option in their lineup. 


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California's EV Market Is At Risk


All of this, as McClatchy points out, is at risk, as the Trump administration looks to revoke the state's ability to regulate its own greenhouse gas emissions from cars and freeze rules that the previous administration put in place that requires automakers to develop clean, fuel-efficient vehicles. The proposal would also stop requiring automakers to sell a specific number of EVs in California, claims the outlet. 


If the current administration manages to overturn California's emissions standards and the Obama-era fuel economy regulations, it could upend everything the state has done and make EVs, as well as other fuel-efficient cars, obsolete. 


Individuals aren't sure if the administration's decision is the right one. Pasquale Romano, CEO of ChargePoint, which is the largest EV charging network in the United States, spoke out against the Trump administration's proposal. According to him, the decision would "turn back the clock" on the competition between electric vehicles in the U.S. and pollution reduction, states the outlet. 


"California is the global leader in the mobility revolution, due in no small part to the state's commitment to emission reductions," Romano told McClatchy. "It simply makes no sense to revoke this waiver at a time when California leads the nation's efforts to compete in the global marketplace." 


In addition to bringing the number of EVs down on the road, the move would also affect employment numbers in California. As McClatchy claims, roughly 15,000 people are employed by companies that are involved with the development of fuel-efficient or zero-emission cars in the state. There are a total of 288,000 employees nationwide that are working on similar things. 


As the United States backs away from the development of fuel-efficient cars, countries like China are pulling ahead thanks to the unknown predicament that automakers have found themselves in at the moment, believes Bob Keefe, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs. Rolling back fuel efficiency standards will further hurt the employment status, stated Keefe. 


"This puts thousands of jobs at risk," Keefe told the outlet. "There's also going to be a loss of savings to consumers every time they go to the pump with less-efficient vehicles. Lastly, this hurts American innovation – our ability to compete with China and other countries." 


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Not Everyone Wants To Keep California's Strict Regulations


Some, though, praised the Trump administration's proposal. The majority of those in the camp included industry groups that oppose federal action as a method to countering global warming.


"Automakers support continued improvements in fuel economy and flexibilities…while balancing priorities like affordability, safety, jobs, and the environment," stated the Auto Alliance and Global Automakers, which includes General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Toyota, and Ford, in a statement. 


More recently, General Motors' CEO, Mary Barra, has voiced her opinion on the current administration's proposal to end the Obama administrations' fuel economy requirements. While GM initially claimed that it would be moving towards an electric-heavy future, Barra recently came out and asked for a national fuel economy standard. 


"General Motors supports establishing one national set of fuel efficiency requirements, with flexibilities that take into consideration recent industry developments such as vehicle sharing and self-driving electric vehicles," wrote Barra in a previous LinkedIn post. 


The national fuel economy standard would lock every automaker into one standard to meet across every state, essentially killing California's current standards. So while Barra doesn't completely agree with Trump's administration, she is siding with the federal government when it comes to stopping California continuing to set its own regulation standards. 


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Why Lower Emission Standards? 


According to McClatchy, officials from the EPA and Department of Transportation believe that looser national standards would reduce the price of vehicles and persuade drivers to purchase new cars. And, as the officials stated in a call with reporters, the vehicles would be cleaner and safer than old ones, as the federal government would still require automakers to have a lineup of cars that average 37 mpg by 2020. "That's a pretty darn aggressive standard," Bill Wehrum, the EPA's assistant administrator, told the outlet. 


The major different between then Trump administration's and the administration under President Barack Obama is what happens after 2020. Under the current administration, the 37 mpg average would be frozen in 2020. The Obama administration called upon automakers to try to better those figures by having a fleet that average 54 mpg by 2025. 


"This (Trump) proposal guts the most effective policy to address climate change in the US," Dona Adair, deputy director of the clean cars program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told McClatchy. 


Adair also voiced his disappointment with General Motors for not publicly opposing the Trump administration's plan. "Automakers who claim they support action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions cannot stand up and not reject this proposal outright," stated Adair. "Otherwise, they have no credibility." 


At the moment, California, as the outlet claims, is home to roughly 400,000 EVs, which is more than any other state in the U.S. In fact, California has approximately half of all the EVs in the nation. Its emissions regulations have also made it the place for zero-emission companies to invest their money.  

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