WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Electric cars will initially
be given a “zero” emissions rating in new U.S. auto fuel efficiency regulations as an incentive for industry to mass produce them, the U.S. government said on Thursday.
“Right now, it’s pretty clear that the credit is needed for these vehicles,” a senior government official said on Thursday.
Automakers have been concerned that plug-in electric cars — which several manufacturers have in the pipeline or on the drawing board — would be penalized in regulatory formulas used to calculate each company’s efforts to meet a new fleet-wide efficiency target of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.
Under an incentive program unveiled by the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the first 200,000 vehicles produced by each manufacturer will be given a zero emissions rating.
After that, the rating of the vehicle will reflect the upstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with charging the vehicles.
The more carbon emissions an automaker produces through its fleet of cars and trucks, the harder it will be to reach the government-set goal, which is a 42 percent gain over current regulations.
Currently, the market for gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, the most efficient on the road, is narrow, and the market for electric cars is not known.
Electric vehicles are now a product of niche manufacturers, but government tax credits, other incentives and consumer interest are boosting manufacturing plans.
General Motors Co intends to roll out its Volt plug-in electric car later this year. Nissan Motor Co Ltd is also producing a battery-powered car, the Leaf.
Industry costs of meeting the new fuel regulation escalate annually from $5.9 billion in 2012, the first year of the new rule, to $14.9 billion in 2016, according to Transportation Department statistics.
Reporting by John Crawley, editing by Gerald E. McCormick