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Consumer Reports praises expected passage of California rule to increase clean transportation options for consumers

SACRAMENTO –  The California Air Resources Board (CARB) today is expected to approve a strong new rule that will increase consumer options for clean vehicles.

Consumer Reports supports this rule, which would rapidly scale down vehicle emissions in the light-duty sector by requiring that all new passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in California be zero-emission or plug-in hybrids by the year 2035.

Under the new rule, manufacturers will prioritize getting their inventory of clean vehicles into California, and other states that choose to adopt this rule in the future. Known as the Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II) rule, it will take effect in California beginning January 2026.

“As interest in clean transportation technology continues to grow, it is important that we give consumers the resources they need to gain access to this technology,” said Dylan Jaff, Policy Analyst at Consumer Reports.  “This common-sense rule is a critical tool to bring an increased array of zero-emission vehicle options to California consumers, increasing their ability to reduce their carbon footprint.”

In a nationally-representative survey of 8,027 people conducted by Consumer Reports in January and February 2022, 71 percent of Americans expressed some interest in purchasing or leasing an electric-only vehicle. 

Under the Federal Clean Air Act, California is granted the authority to establish emissions standards more stringent than the federal government, with proper justification. Upon adoption of this rule, other states will have the opportunity to adopt ACC II in their own states, bringing critical emissions reductions to their residents.

In addition to increasing stringency requirements for the percentage of new zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) a manufacturer must sell in a given year, this rule establishes new rules on a wide range of issues for ZEV ownership, ranging from consumer protections to increasing accessibility of ZEVs in low-income and disadvantaged communities.

Consumer Protections

The ACC II Rule will be the first in the nation to establish consumer protections for the purchase of new ZEVs, including requirements for battery warranties and range durability, which will protect consumers and help achieve consumer confidence in the used ZEV market. Currently, used cars make up 70% of all vehicles sold. 

“As more zero-emission vehicles enter the secondary market in the coming years, it is imperative that consumers have protections against poorly designed batteries,” said Chris Harto, Senior Policy Analyst at Consumer Reports. “Populations already at the forefront of climate and air quality hazards deserve protections addressing the lifetime of their vehicles, their batteries, and the repairability of both.”

Equity in the Light-duty Vehicle Market

The ACC II rule also seeks to increase accessibility of ZEV options in low-income and disadvantaged communities by establishing a voluntary equity component to the rule. This rule would require manufacturers to successfully get clean vehicles into the hands of low-income consumers and into clean mobility programs that benefit low-income consumers in order to access a portion of historic ACC I credits, which can be used to supplement up to five percent of their sales stringency requirements for a given year.

Throughout the rulemaking process, advocates expressed concern that the original Advanced Clean Cars I rule lacked an equity component, limiting the program’s initial reach. 

“Consumer Reports applauds CARB for taking this step to bring clean, cost-saving vehicles to consumers who can most benefit from this technology, and urges the Board to continue identifying opportunities to address transportation and climate equity in the light-duty vehicle market in future regulations,” said Quinta Warren, Associate Director of Sustainability Policy.

As California moves toward adopting this important rule, CR urges other states to take similar steps to increase clean vehicle options for residents, including widespread adoption of the ACC II rule.

Contact: David Butler, david.butler@consumer.org