The California lawmaker behind the legislation admitted it’s a long shot. Even if the legislation passed both houses of Congress, President Donald Trump would almost certainly veto it.
(TNS) — Zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVs, may make up less than 2 percent of the nation’s car sales but a bill introduced on Capitol Hill by Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, would require half of all sales of new passenger vehicles in 2030 be ZEVs, with the mandate ramping up 5 percent per year to 100 percent by 2040 — essentially eliminating the sale of gasoline-powered passenger cars in the U.S. in little more than 20 years.
Levin introduced what is called the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act in the House of Representatives while fellow Democrat, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate.
“I think it’s really important that we not just have big, bold principles but that we actually have concrete actions that will help us reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Levin, who in January succeeded Darrell Issa in California’s 49th Congressional District that includes parts of San Diego and Orange counties.
The bill would amend the Clean Air Act and set a federal zero-emissions standard for vehicles and boost the sales of battery electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
The legislation would not apply to vehicles already on the road, only to purchases of new cars. Levin said the bill is aimed at light-duty vehicles, not trucks. SUVs would be affected but Levin was quick to mention that car makers are adding zero-emission SUVs to their fleets.
Levin admitted the bill is a long shot. All of the bill’s co-sponsors are Democrats and Republicans hold the majority in the Senate. Even if the legislation passed both houses of Congress, President Donald Trump would almost certainly veto it.
“My great hope is that we’re laying a foundation ... that we have a road map,” Levin said in a telephone interview from Washington D.C.
Levin said the bill is modeled in many ways after policies adopted in California. In January 2012, for example, California’s Air Resources Board adopted the Advanced Clean Cars program requiring deployment of electric-drive vehicles for more than 10 percent of all new vehicle sales by 2025.
“What I’m hoping to do in Washington with regards to clean energy and climate change is to take a lot of lessons learned and the leadership we’ve demonstrated in the state of California and try to translate it as best we can to the federal level,” Levin said.
California leads all states by a wide margin in the sale of ZEVs. The Golden State’s figure of 580,726 accounts for nearly half of the nation’s 1.2 million in sales. And last year, sales of new hybrid and electric vehicles in California increased from 9.4 percent in 2017 to 12 percent.
Ten states have instituted requirements that a certain percentage of new vehicles sold must be ZEVs. But while adoption rates are rising, ZEVs make up a small percentage of overall sales. Two states — Wyoming and North Dakota — sold fewer than 100 electric vehicles in 2018.
“You’re not going to convince everyone overnight that they need to have the grid of the future rather than doubling down on the dirty energy technologies of the past,” Levin said. “There are parts of the country that are wedded to coal and oil and will be for the foreseeable future ... but my belief is that we’ve got to push the envelope.”
“Simply having the gall to say, ‘I and I alone, some guy in the San Diego area, know exactly what technology everybody around the country should be using to travel 15 years from now’ ... says a lot about how he thinks about the world and how he thinks about people’s choices and all sorts of other things,” Moore said.
As for criticism of the cost implications of the bill, Levin pointed to California’s economic growth that ran parallel to the state’s adoption of a suite of climate and transportation policies.
“Anybody who tells you that an ambitious zero-emission vehicles standard will somehow undermine our economy just hasn’t looked at the success we’ve had in California,” Levin said.
On the state level, California Assembly member Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, introduced a bill in Sacramento last year that would have required every new passenger vehicle sold in California to emit zero exhaust emissions by 2040. The bill did not get out of committee.
Editor's Note: The date referenced in the headline was corrected to reflect the aim of the legislation.
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