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2012-01-30 08:53

SETTING THE PACE: California officials approved rules that require that one in seven of the new cars sold in the state in 2025 be an electric or other zero-emission vehicle.

JASON DEAREN

SACRAMENTO, California - Californian air quality regulators, seeking to influence other states and Washington, have passed sweeping auto exhausts standards that include having 1.4-million battery and hybrid vehicles on state roads by 2025.

The California Air Resources Board unanimously approved the new rules that require that one in seven new cars sold in the state in 2025 be battery or other zero-emissions vehicle.

The plan also mandates a 75% reduction in smog-forming pollutants by 2025 and the halving of current "greenhouse gas" emissions from today's standards.

Automakers worked with the board and federal regulators on the greenhouse gas mandates in an effort to create one national standard.

INFLUENTIAL

Mary Nichols, Air Resources Board chairman, said: "Today's vote... represents a new chapter for clean cars in California and in the nation as a whole. Californians have always loved their cars. Now we will have cleaner and more efficient cars to love."

California's auto emissions standards are influential and often more strict than US federal rules. The state began passing regulations for cleaner cars in the 1960's to help ease some of the world's worst smog and has since helped spur the auto industry's innovations in emissions-control technology.

Automakers, among them Ford, Chrysler, General Motors and Nissan - submitted testimony supporting the new standards. Some companies protested the inclusion of a system that will give some automakers credit toward their zero-emission vehicle mandate for exceeding federal greenhouse gas emissions standards in other cars.

These credits, which can be used to reduce the number of clean vehicles made, can be used from 2018-2021.

Some called it a loophole that will take hundreds of thousands of clean cars off the road, hurting the emerging market for these vehicles.

CONSUMERS NOT SO KEEN

"This is a temporary way-station," Nichols said about the credits, "but by 2021 all companies will be producing the full complement of zero-emission vehicles."

Trade groups representing auto dealers worried that the new regulations would increase car prices and stifle the industry's growth. The California New Car Dealers' Association and other industry groups representing vehicle retaiers said the board was overestimating consumer demand for electric vehicles and other so-called "zero-emission vehicles".

Dealers are concerned that the regulations will lead to all cars becoming more expensive and say consumers have been slow to warm to electric and other zero-emission vehicles.

The board's research staff dispute the argument from dealers that the mandates for new technology will increase costs for cars. They point to steady increases in hybrid and other sales and argue that fuel-cost savings will make up for any vehicle price increase.

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