August 8, 2015

WHAT CALIFORNIA WANTS AMERICA GETS:

California Has a Plan to End the Auto Industry as We Know It : Mary Nichols, the California regulator who showed the world how to clean up smog, is pushing for all cars to be electric. (John Lippert, August 3, 2015, Bloomberg)

So who's forcing Marchionne and all the other major automakers to sell mostly money-losing electric vehicles? More than any other person, it's Mary Nichols. She's run the California Air Resources Board since 2007, championing the state's zero-emission-vehicle quotas and backing Pres­ident Barack Obama's national mandate to double average fuel economy to 55 miles per gallon by 2025. She was chairman of the state air regulator once before, a generation ago, and cleaning up the famously smoggy Los Angeles skies is just one accomplish­ment in a four-decade career.

Nichols really does intend to force au­tomakers to eventually sell nothing but electrics. In an interview in June at her agency's heavy-duty-truck laboratory in downtown Los Angeles, it becomes clear that Nichols, at age 70, is pushing regula­tions today that could by midcentury all but banish the internal combustion engine from California's famous highways. "If we're going to get our transportation system off petroleum," she says, "we've got to get people used to a zero-emissions world, not just a little-bit-better version of the world they have now." [...]

Even if most people outside California have never heard of Mary Nichols, she's the world's most influential automotive regu­lator, says Levi Tillemann, author of The Great Race, a book on the future of automo­bile technology. "Under her leadership, the Air Resources Board has been the driving force for electrification," Tillemann says.

Nichols, who drives a tiny electric Honda Fit, acts as if she's an unstoppable force. California's goals for the adoption of elec­tric vehicle technology are the most strin­gent in the nation, but Nichols thinks they need to be even tougher. Regulations on the books in California, set in 2012, require that 2.7 percent of new cars sold in the state this year be, in the regulatory jargon, ZEVs. These are defined as battery-only or fuel-cell cars, and plug-in hybrids. The quota rises every year starting in 2018 and reaches 22 percent in 2025. Nichols wants 100 percent of the new vehicles sold to be zero- or almost-zero-emissions by 2030, in part through greater use of low-carbon fuels that she's also promoting.

The 2030 target is what's needed to meet Governor Jerry Brown's goal, set in an ex­ecutive order, of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century, Nichols says. The conven­tional internal combustion engine needs to be off the road by 2050 and, since cars last many years, on its way out of new-car showrooms around 2030.

Posted by at August 8, 2015 6:21 AM
  

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