Who's Trying To Kill The Electric Car Again? Take A Guess.

By now, I’m sure we’ve all heard the news: earlier this month, the Trump administration announced plans to reverse the Obama-era CAFE standards, effectively deciding to increase US oil consumption, pollution, and CO2 emissions. They’ve also set their sights on their next target to kill: CARB (the California Air Resources Board) — a thorn in the side of auto manufacturers who want to sell exhaust-belching gas guzzlers and not sell electric vehicles. CARB imposes more strict emissions standards than the federal government and — perhaps more critically — created a ZEV mandate that has rapidly accelerated the adoption of electric vehicles in California and the other states which follow California’s guidelines.

Killing CARB would be a massive blow to the spread of electric vehicles in the US.  And some people want it that way.

However, this rollback and these CARB attacks didn’t come out of the blue. They’ve long been the target of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (formerly the American Automobile Manufacturers Association) — and it’s their very active lobbying campaign that led to the Trump administration’s decision.

While I intended to write about this earlier, I was too busy. But now is as good of a time as any.

The Alliance is not an “evil” organization persay — simply opportunist.  For example, they joined the Obama administration in an effort to protect the EPA’s right to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants. Because — this goes without saying — cars aren’t power plants. They argue to congress that reductions in emissions should come from power plants and fuel producers, not their cars. They also fight against “Right to Repair” legislation.

Who’s in the association?  Here’s your list:



  • BMW Group
  • Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
  • Ford Motor Company
  • General Motors
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Mazda
  • Mercedes-Benz USA
  • Mitsubishi Motors
  • Porsche
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen Group of America
  • Volvo Car USA

Who’s notably absent from the association?

  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Nissan
  • Subaru
  • Tesla

For some, their presence or absence has little to do with electric vehicles. Honda for example has long been lukewarm about EVs (having previously heavily backed fuel cells); the Clarity Electric is a modified version of their old FCX Clarity, and is only available as a compliance car in ZEV states. Subaru has likewise been relatively lukewarm to EVs.  Hyundai makes some excellent economy EVs (the Ioniq, and now the Kona), but unfortunately only in low quantities.

Instead, for these other manufacturers, it all comes down to emissions. Follow the green lines relative to the “100” mark (the 2012 fuel economy average) and compare them to each other:

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Source: 2016 VEHICLE TECHNOLOGIES MARKET REPORT

As you can see, Honda and Nissan have been on a roll when it comes to fuel economy. Toyota, by contrast, has stagnated in recent years.  Fiat Chrysler, Ford, and GM have been improving since 2012, but are so far behind that they have a lot of catching up to do; of them, only GM has even caught up to the old 2012 average.

In short, they’re simply lobbying their interests — they gain when fuel standards are tight, while the Alliance members lose.  Unfortunately, part of that interest is “not wanting to have to make electric vehicles”

The Alliance’s official stance tries to be as “EV friendly” as possible, arguing that government fleets should buy more EVs in order to meet ZEV mandate targets.  Of course, if governments — with much larger budgets than consumers — by more EVs while total EV targets stay the same, that means that they have to sell fewer vehicles to tighter-budgeted consumers.  They also ran a greenwashing “pro EV” ad campaign earlier this year, while simultaneously lobbying against regulations.  If this rings a bell, it should; similar ad campaigns were run in the 90s while the automakers were lobbying against the first generation of ZEV mandates:

However, when it comes to their lobbying, they’re far less reserved about their goals. Indeed, their efforts started from Day 1:

The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emission Standards that were adopted in 2012 by the EPA, NHTSA, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) via a Joint Final Rule pose a substantial challenge to the auto sector due to the steeper compliance requirements for Model Years (MY) 2017-2025. As part of the Mid-Term Review process that kicked off this summer with release of the Draft Technical Assessment Report (TAR), the EPA, NHTSA, CARB and the auto sector are in the process of re-evaluating the assumptions that shaped those original standards. Automakers have outlined concerns that call into question the viability of the modeling used in the draft TAR. In short, we believe the TAR over-projects technology efficiencies and inadequately accounts for consumer acceptance and marketplace realities.

Under a waiver granted by EPA, California’s ZEV requirement (followed by nine other states), forces GHG-reducing solutions (heavy electrification) into the market rather than allowing the“technology-agnostic” approach that EPA and NHTSA relied upon in the One National Program. This additive ZEV requirement grows to over 15% of vehicle sales by 2025 in the ten states that together account for roughly one-third of all light-duty vehicle sales in the United States. The benefits of the ZEV program are factored into the Draft Technical Assessment Report, but the costs of the ZEV program are ignored. And while EPA argues that substantial electrification is not required for compliance with the federal program, that point is academic if it is separately required for the ten relevant states.

We recommend that the cost of the ZEV mandate be factored into the Mid-Term Review due to the much more expensive compliance pathway that will increase costs for consumers nationally.

Bold in the original — not added by me.

Yes, while they greenwash their brands, the Alliance is lobbying to kill the electric car. Funded by many of the exact same players who did it last time.

When it comes to buying EVs and PHEVs, you have a large choice in manufacturers and vehicles:

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Source: InsideEVs plugin scorecard. List truncated for space.

When you spend your money, keep in mind who’s trying to kill off emissions standards and EV mandates (BMW, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, GM, Jaguar, Mazda, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Toyota, VW, Volvo) even while they try to sell you EVs (thanks to CARB) — and who’s not trying to kill them (Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru, Tesla). 

Vote with your dollars.