Ultimately, government regulators hope to use the mandate to put as many as 3.3 million electric vehicles on the road in eight states by 2025, which translates to approximately 34 times as many plug-in vehicles as were sold in the US in 2013.
The question for automakers and suppliers, however, is whether they should start planning to ramp up production in expectation of the quotas. For now, automakers say they are laying plans while keeping a sharp eye on consumer acceptance of EVs. “If consumers don’t buy in large numbers, the mandate will have to be revisited,” Wade Newton, spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, told Design News. “You can mandate supply, but you cannot mandate demand.”
Industry analysts acknowledge that consumers will make the ultimate decision on the law, but some believe that a coherent consumer trend is already emerging. “We’re reaching the point where the biggest hurdle -- the consumer acceptance –- is becoming less of an issue,” Koslowski told us. “The hurdle’s not gone, but it’s not what it once was.”
Proof of Koslowski’s point lies in the recent performance of Tesla, he said. Last week, Tesla announced in an earnings meeting that it sold no Zero Emission Vehicle credits in the fourth quarter of 2013, and yet still pulled in a net income of $46 million. The automaker also said it would soon reveal its plans for its Gigafactory, which will slash battery costs by integrating all production into a single facility.
”I don’t think California can back off the mandate at this point,” Koslowski added. “There is so much momentum from companies like Tesla, the regulators feel their beliefs are being confirmed.”
Still, not all experts aren’t convinced that the mandate will survive intact. David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Center for Automotive Research, cites the seat belt safety interlock law in the 1970s as an example of legislation rejected by consumers. “That lasted a year and it was gone,” Cole told us. “Consumers and voters thought it was a really stupid thing to do.”
Cole added that manufacturers need to be aware of competing technologies that might obviate the need for strict EV laws. Micro-hybrids, which automatically shut down their engines at stop signs and traffic lights, might emerge as such a solution, he said. During the next 10 years, he added, consumer appetites for new technology could change multiple times.
”Suppliers need to be thinking about this, but they also need to remember that this isn’t cast in stone,” Cole concluded. “You don’t want to spend a lot of money until you’re sure this is the way we’re going.”
Wade Newton said, "You can mandate supply, but you cannot mandate demand." Apparently he has not been paying attention. This ship sailed with the Affordable Care Act. If we can be forced to purchase insurance policies with coverage that we don't want or need, then what prevents the government from doing that with cars?
I'm not terribly conversant with the history of CARB and its relationship to the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, but I know that both of those cars started in Japan, and then were brought over to the U.S. At the time, I don't believe CARB had a program for partial ZEVs (PZEVs), only for pure electric cars, which means that neither of those vehicles would have qualified for credit. To be sure, I called Honda, and spokesman Chris Martin told us that the Insight was not a product of California legislation. "We marketed it nationwide," he said. "If it was simply a means to achieve a credit, we more than likely would have marketed it only in California."
Tesla Motors’ $35,000, 200-mile electric car may not revolutionize the auto industry by itself, but it could serve as a starting point for a long, steady climb to a day when half of the world’s vehicles will be plug-ins.
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