California Wants You To Drive Electric, By All Means

By Blake Z. Rong | May 11, 2012
California wants you to buy an electric car. They'll beg, they'll grovel, they'll argue why a pricey new Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf is better for you, your wallet, and the environment. But in the end, they'll just give you cold, hard cash—up to $2,500 in state rebates, and that's before the $7,500 maximum from the federal government. It's a little money to offset the stupendously high costs of these advanced electric cars, but any money retained is good money—and that's why some speculate that the only reason people are buying electric cars today is because of regulation, not because they actually desire them. New regulations from Sacramento are aggressively promoting the number of electric cars on the roads. By 2018, all major companies that do business in California will need a zero-emissions vehicle in its lineup. The California Air Resources Board will grant credits to companies for meeting the mandates early, implementing emissions-reducing technology on their current cars, and adding to electric vehicle range, which they can use just in case they don't meet the mandate—and therefore, subject themselves to heavy fines. Currently, six manufacturers are subject to these fiendishly complex regulations: Nissan, Honda, and Toyota, as well as the Big Three domestic companies. But by 2018 Volkswagen, BMW, Hyundai and Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Volvo will be subject to these new standards—as well as any company that sells more than 20,000 cars per year in the state. Perhaps it's better for smaller companies like Suzuki to lie low, if it's still selling cars here by then; niche companies like Fisker and Tesla are building zero-emissions vehicles anyway, so they'll understandably be off the hook.
It's not just California going all gree: as the trendsetters in the nation's emissions regulations (as well as the state that needs it the most), ten other states have adopted its mandate. Some people are already labeling these electric vehicles "compliance cars"—sold only to pass the mandates and not to actually appeal to consumers, though if they want to buy one they're more than welcome to give them money. Will consumers spring for electric cars, finally? California wants them to, but in the end it's as simple as this: more choice, more public acceptance, and more incentive to do so will inevitably drive up sales, even if by a little bit. Source: Consumer Reports