Car companies don’t want the U.S. to follow Maryland’s lead on ZEV standards

Government mandates that automakers make enough electric and hybrid cars to reach a set annual sales goal by the end of next year are needed as quickly as possible and automakers should honor them, said Garry Mandelbaum, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing General Motors, Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Volkswagen and others.

“We can have a successful transition to electric cars. We have to get to a point where automakers have to meet their quotas,” Mandelbaum said. “They would probably force the issue anyway.”

Mandelbaum was speaking after a Wednesday meeting with the governor’s office about changing Maryland’s zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate to require 35,000 ZEVs sold by 2017. Maryland law requires all vehicles sold in the state to have a 1.5-gallon gas mileage equivalent.

“We need the president to push it through,” Mandelbaum said.

Washington, D.C., already mandates that car manufacturers sell 5,000 ZEVs each year and Delaware and South Carolina have similar mandates. Some states, including Arizona, California and Utah, mandate that no more than 25 percent of all new cars, SUVs, and trucks sold in the state emit greenhouse gases.

“We know that we have a large number of electric and hybrid cars and hybrids that are being sold in the marketplace,” said Laura Dietz, spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Other states have gone even further. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont require a minimum of 10 percent ZEV sales. But some states, such as Virginia, have not set a target, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Many of the states issue incentives for sales of ZEVs. California pays an incentive of $1,500 to buyers of electric vehicles and $5,000 to owners of hybrid cars. Connecticut’s incentive is $3,000 for ZEV purchases. Arizona’s is $2,500.

Virginia law requires 15 percent of all new cars sold in the state by 2017 to be ZEVs, according to Virginia DMV, and requires 10 percent by 2020.

Under the waiver proposal submitted by the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate would be reduced from 25 percent of all new vehicles sold in the state to 10 percent. Other states’ credits would be eliminated, so ZEVs still could be sold but the local dealer would have to meet the overall threshold.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley did not mention any timeline for legislation change. Instead, she said the administration was engaged in ongoing discussions with local auto dealers.

“This is not going to happen overnight, but we recognize we have a set of goals,” Swaim-Staley said.

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