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by Julia Pyper
May 24, 2019

The 100 percent clean electricity target is the latest trend in clean energy policymaking. As of today, five states — plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 120 cities — have committed to 100 percent goals, while several others are considering it.

But while the ink has barely dried on Washington state’s clean electricity bill, recent headlines suggest there is a new trend on the horizon: 100 percent zero-emission vehicle, or ZEV, targets.

Earlier this month, Democratic presidential hopeful Jay Inslee released the first part of his comprehensive climate plan, which includes a requirement to reach 100 percent zero emissions in new light-duty and medium-duty vehicles, as well as all buses, by 2030. That is a wildly ambitious policy proposal and a long shot at best. But the idea has garnered a fair number of headlines and advanced the conversation around a national ZEV target.

In a similar vein, California Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act of 2019 this month in the U.S. House and Senate, respectively. The bill would require 50 percent of all new car sales to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2030, increasing 5 percent per year until 2040, when all new passenger cars sold in the U.S. would be battery electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Automakers that fail to hit the targets would face civil penalties under the proposal. Co-sponsors of the bill include presidential contenders Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

“This legislation embraces the opportunity for America to sell to the world the revolutionary technology that will make our air cleaner, communities healthier, and workforce stronger,” said Sen. Merkley, in a statement.

Rep. Levin said that the bold measure reflects the severity of the climate crisis, but acknowledged in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune that the bill is a long shot while Republicans control the Senate and the White House.

“My great hope is that we’re laying a foundation…that we have a road map,” he said.

While the ZEV Act sets up a policy discussion at the federal level, the groundwork was arguably laid much earlier at the state and local level. Other countries have also already taken steps to mandate more ZEVs or, in a similar vein, phase out cars with internal combustion engines. This week’s column takes a look at where 100 percent ZEV goals are gaining traction.