California bill would require more zero-emissions cars

Manufacturers would have to sell more electric vehicles to avoid paying the state or their rivals.

AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

California's tougher-than-usual climate change policy might become more stringent before long. Assemblywoman Autumn Burke tells the Associate Press that she's introducing a bill requiring that car manufacturers sell at least 15 percent zero-emissions free vehicles within a decade. Companies operating in the state already have to hit yearly emissions targets and get credits for sales, but this would require that they embrace electric or hydrogen fuel cell cars in a big way -- not just one or two novelty models. And if they don't sell enough eco-friendly cars, they'd have to either pay a fine to the state or pay rivals that meet the targets. Yes, they might inadvertently help the competition.

If the bill becomes law, it could light a fire under car makers that have so far been slow to adopt emissions-free tech. Only 3 percent of all California car sales are either electric or plug-in hybrids. Those holdouts are going to complain loudly if asked to change their ways, mind you. Industry groups like the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers see the bill as pandering to Tesla, giving the local all-electric automaker an unfair edge. Whether or not that's true, it's doubtful that the state will show gas-centric companies much sympathy. The California government is serious about its 2030 climate goals, and it could easily welcome any move that helps it reach those targets a bit faster.