California warns of break from Washington on clean-air rules

California sent a warning shot in a potential showdown with the incoming Trump administration, with the state’s clean-air regulators digging in on mandates for an ever-greater number of electric and fuel-cell cars.

The staff of California’s Air Resources Board called national efforts to promote electrification “very modest” after 2025 as it released a more than 660-page report Wednesday on the future of zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVs. If federal emissions standards are substantially changed, the state may revisit whether to keep coordinating with Washington’s policies, they said.

“The message we want to send is that post-2025 California is moving not just to moderate, but to very aggressive, stringency on greenhouse gases and zero-emission vehicles,” Joshua Cunningham, chief of the regulator’s sustainable transport staff, said in an interview. “We’re pushing the boundaries.”

The report suggests California should maintain ZEV targets already in place for 2022 to 2025. Elon Musk, CEO of electric-car maker Tesla Motors Inc., said in August the regulator’s standards were “pathetically low” and “a crying shame.”

Other automakers are criticizing the Air Resources Board for being unrealistic. The staff’s recommendations for no immediate change to the ZEV mandate “is questionable given an environment of historically low gas prices and stagnant demand for electric vehicles,” said John Bozzella, president of Global Automakers, a trade group that represents a dozen automakers including Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co.

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