NACS Seeks to Block California Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate

Regulators “should encourage innovation to meet environmental performance goals,” NACS says.

May 16, 2022

EV Chargers

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—NACS on May 13 filed a petition in federal court in Washington, D.C., to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s grant of a waiver that would allow California to impose a zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate and related limits on greenhouse gas emissions. The California regulations depart from federal standards. The state’s ZEV mandate has been adopted by 15 states around the nation.

“We strongly favor more development of competitive markets for electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and other technologies,” said Doug Kantor, NACS general counsel. “But technology mandates will reduce incentives for environmental gains from a range of vehicle fuels and technologies. We should encourage innovation to meet environmental performance goals. That would be far more effective in reducing emissions and delivering the competitive prices, goods and services that American consumers deserve.”

In 2019, the EPA rescinded the waiver that had allowed California to pursue greenhouse gas regulations separate from those imposed by EPA on most of the U.S. This spring, EPA changed course and granted a new waiver to California. A centerpiece of the regulations that California developed which would be reinstated by the new waiver is a mandate that a certain number of new vehicles sold in the state be “zero emission vehicles.” While all types of vehicles create emissions—whether while driving them or during the process of producing the energy necessary to operate them—California defines plug-in electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, as well as hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, to be “zero emission.”

The California regulations require 35% of new vehicles sold in the state to be “zero emission” by 2025, with that percentage increasing to 70% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. These regulations would be the means by which the state will impose the internal combustion engine ban that Governor Gavin Newsom announced in 2020.

Seventeen states filed petitions seeking to block the California waiver. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Energy Marketers of America and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance joined the petition with NACS.

“Our members are accelerating investments in electric vehicle chargers to serve that market, but different states setting technology mandates will not work,” said Kantor. “The track record of policymakers deciding what technologies will be best for future Americans is a poor one.”

The legal challenges will be considered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, though the full legal process to decide the petitions could take years.

The Convenience Matters podcast, “Where Do EVs Make the Most Sense?” examines the findings from a Fuels Institute study looking at life-cycle emissions for EVs and fuel-powered vehicles. NACS also has a topics page on electric vehicles.