Major automakers producing “fake” electric cars to meet California emission standards?

Major automakers producing "fake" electric cars to meet California emission standards?

The last few years have seen electric vehicles (EVs) slowly picking up steam in the automotive industry. While the electric vehicle can trace its roots to the very dawn of the automobile, modern day EVs are just now starting to see widespread production. Trouble is, not all EVs scheduled to come out are “real.”

According to a recent evaluation by Green Car Reports, a number of automakers have developed and been developing battery electric vehicles that are meant solely for the purpose of complying with California regulations regarding zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), which require automakers to sell a certain percentage of ZEVs in the state.

These “compliance” electric vehicles, GCR asserts,must meet a certain criteria in order to be considered so. These included being produced in much limited or lower volume than other EVs currently on the market, offered only through leasing, and selling less than 5,000 units a year or failing to teach global sales minimum of 20,000.

2012 Tesla Model S Red

As it stands now, there are only a handful of battery-electrics on the market and even less available nationwide. The three available for purchase now include the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi “i,” Coda Sedan, and Tesla Model S. The Leaf is available nationwide, the Coda currently only sells in California, while the Mitsubishi “i” is limited to purchase in select states like Oregon and California. A Mitsubishi spokesperson has informed us, however, that the “i” will see a nationwide rollout sometime in late June. Finally, deliveries of Tesla’s Model S are scheduled to begin in July.

Even more interesting than the “real” cars are the ones GCR labels as “not real.” These “ghost” cars, which have been produced to meet quotas, are nothing more than veneer: simple battery-electrics that are conversions of existing gasoline vehicles not meant to sell in high volumes — if they’re allowed to be sold at all (not just leased) –and are being restricted to a small niche market or fleet presence.

Populating this list are cars from Toyota (RAV 4 EV), Honda (Fit EV), General Motors (Chevy Spark EV), and Chrysler (Fiat 500 Elettrica). But while we’re certainly disappointed to see the inclusion of all these makes and models, the car we are most disheartened to see is the eagerly anticipated Focus Electric.

Honda Fit EV

Ford’s first foray onto the EV scene has been heralded for some time now within the industry and media. Hype surrounding the Focus Electric has been, well, electric. With a design language that dramatically distances itself from the standard “electric car look” the Focus Electric has a lot going for it.

Although it remains pure speculation on GCR’s part, the devil, as they say, is in the details, or in this case the lack of details because Ford has been rather tight-lipped on any details surrounding its impending launch. GCRclaims Ford has yet to specify plans in regards to purchasing and or leasing the Focus Electric, but we did our own digging and found that at least in the states where the Focus Electric is currently available (California/NewYork/New Jersey) purchasing the vehicle outright is an option. Whether it remains so after it rolls out to more states nationwide remains to be seen, although we can’t imagine Ford would nix that option.

Ironically, part of  California’s ZEV mandate was initially intended to promote and compel automakers to seek alternative fueling efforts for the vehicles they sell. Instead, it seems the automakers have devised a way to dance around the law and in the end offer consumers and EV enthusiasts a teasing glimpse of what ultimately may be out of reach.  Time will tell if these EVs prove to be “real” or not, but with major automakers like Nissan and Chevrolet at the vanguard of the electric vehicle movement, and others like Ford, Toyota, and Honda content to sit it out on the sidelines until a real incentive is made, we can’t see GCR’s predictions being too off the mark.


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