for manufacturers, and government-sponsored research and development, he said. While “this mélange of policies” does not always seem consistent, he said, they are “consistent in their support of electric vehicles.”

New Environmental Protection Agency standards for greenhouse gas emissions are especially important, Dr. Sperling said. Standards already being put into effect in California and that the Obama Administration plans to adopt for the entire nation call for emission reductions of 30 percent to 40 percent by 2016.26 “That is aggressive,” he said.

California is the process of issuing “the next level of standards,” Dr. Sperling explained. “We are talking about at least a 3 percent reduction in greenhouse gases per mile a year, starting in 2017. 27 So however aggressive those 2016 numbers are, it is going to get even more aggressive after that.” Dr. Sperling said California is working very closely with the EPA and hopes the rest of the U.S. will quickly follow its lead.

In addition to putting a lot of pressure on automakers to improve fuel-efficiency, these standards are designed to push electric vehicles, Dr. Sperling explained. For example, electric vehicles will be rated as if they emit zero grams of greenhouse gasses per mile “even though in reality their lifecycle emissions are much more than that,” he observed. “The intent is to incentivize EVs. There is tremendous pressure to move toward electric-drive technologies. This requirement is going to make that even more forceful.”

California and 10 other states have required that a certain percentage of cars sold in the state be zero-emission vehicles.28 California requires major automakers to make available 25,000 such vehicles in the state by 2014 and 50,000 by 2017. “And we are going to adopt numbers that are far more aggressive than that in 2018 and beyond,” Dr. Sperling said.

Low-carbon fuel standards adopted by California are another source of pressure. The state requires a 10 percent reduction in carbon-intensity of all fuels, whether they are natural gas, petroleum, bio-fuels, or hydrogen. “What this does is require that the carbon content of fuels be steadily reduced over time,” he explained. The greenhouse gas benefits of bio-fuels, especially those derived from foods, are modest, Dr. Sperling noted. “So again, on the fuel side we will see strong incentive to move toward electricity as a transportation fuel.” Local governments in California also are promoting the electric-vehicle industry. Municipalities are setting targets for reducing carbon from transportation.


26 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are finalizing greenhouse gas-emission standards for model years 2012 to 2016 under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. For details, see <>.

27 In July 2011, the White House, together with most of the major car companies, announced a proposal to reduce car emissions (and fuel consumption) by 5 percent per year from 2017 to 2025, and light trucks by 3.5 percent per year. These new standards are scheduled to be adopted by California in January 2012 and EPA and DOT later in 2012. see Federal Register / Vol. 76, No. 153 / Tuesday, August 9, 2011 / Proposed Rules.

28 A zero-emissions vehicle, or ZEV, emits no tailpipe emissions from the onboard source of power.

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