What We're Doing

Policy Solution

We helped broker a fuel-efficiency deal that will cut carbon pollution from new cars in half and save drivers $90 billion a year at the pump.

Policy Solution

We're pushing for biofuels that are sustainably grown, protect sensitive landscapes, and lower carbon pollution.

Policy Solution

Electric cars require no gas and release no tailpipe emissions. That’s why we're working to get more of them on the road.

Policy Solution

As China’s electric vehicle market is growing rapidly, we're helping the country prepare its electric grid to power EVs with clean, renewable energy.

Related Priorities

What You Can Do

Your Guide to Going Electric

Considering making the switch? Here's everything you need to know about driving electric cars and hybrids.

How smog, soot, greenhouse gases, and other top air pollutants are affecting the planet—and your health

Experts & Resources

Cities Can Lead the Way to Clean Transportation Plans
Deron Lovaas

Watching the Olympics has been fun and exciting, as always. And if we pull the lens back, we can see that Rio de Janeiro is part of another competition, namely the competition to solve climate change as dramatically underscored in the Opening Ceremonies.

Thankfully, although many investments made by host cities turn out to be of little use to a city after the Games, much of Rio’s transformative redevelopment may have lasting value. It’s far from a foregone conclusion based on past experience, but if it works it will be due to leadership by Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes working with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. As C40 chair, he talks about his dedication to urban sustainability in this inspiring piece he co-authored with the mayor of Paris.

Overall, there’s an emerging trend—cities stepping up as problem-solvers in the age of climate change.

For example, yesterday the Sierra Club published a new report profiling 10 cities in the U.S. that are shifting to clean energy. In June, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and the U.S. Conference of Mayors launched a new Alliance for a Sustainable Future, which will build better partnerships between states and cities and promote best practices in urban areas. And NRDC’s own City Energy Project is building on its work with pioneer cities nationwide to boost the energy efficiency of commercial building stock.

Pixabay

Now the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has the chance to add to this trend by requiring that long-range transportation plans developed by metropolitan areas go for the gold in the race against climate change—a new performance standard for taxpayer-funded plans to track greenhouse gas pollution and set targets for reducing it.

NRDC and our partners at the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the United States Public Interest Research Group filed detailed comments about the proposal this week, and I urge you to read them and share them. The Center for American Progress and the National League of Cities this week endorsed the proposal as well.

This commonsense proposal is understandably popular as this recent poll shows.

Pollution from transportation sources is a big problem, and cities can’t tackle it alone. They need collaborators, specifically in their metropolitan planning organizations (which include suburbs like Washington, D.C.’s College Park, MD, where I live) and state departments of transportation. These government agencies forge long-term transportation plans directing billions of dollars of investments in coming decades.

The simple truth is that a new performance standard for greenhouse gas pollution from our nation’s metropolitan and state transportation plans would catalyze that work and take a big stride toward solving climate change, with our cities leading the way.

Uncovering the Full Potential of Electric Vehicles in China
Barbara Finamore

颐园新居

Across the world, electric vehicles (EVs) are increasingly recognized as one of the greenest choices for personal transportation, and for good reason: avoiding the worst impacts of climate change requires us to phase out the use of oil in transportation. EVs, with their higher operating efficiencies and ability to use electricity from clean sources like renewable energy, offer a way to meet our society’s transportation needs while leaving the majority of the world’s remaining oil reserves in the ground.

However, a lesser-known benefit of EVs is their ability to make better use of cars as a resource to the power grid system. Most cars bought today will only be on the road for five percent of their lifespan; the other 95 percent of the time, these cars lie unused in garages and parking lots.

Up until now, we have been willing to spend five figures on machines that are unused 95 percent of the time because, during the five percent of the time that we do use them, they are very useful. But electric vehicles also have the potential to tap into that massive block of unused time by making use of their charging demand and sizeable storage capacity to provide services to electric utilities. EVs have a much higher energy demand than most household appliances, giving them a greater ability to influence operations on the electricity grid. If EV charging is conducted in a planned and orderly manner, with EV drivers responding to signals from utilities about when to charge their EVs, then they can actually be used to improve the overall efficiency of the electricity grid.

This process is called “demand response (DR),” and utilities already utilize it. When customers sign up for demand response programs, utilities ask customers to reduce electricity consumption at certain time of the year and/or on particular days for a limited number of hours to relieve the power system peak and/or congestion issues. Customers receive incentive payments for joining the program, and also benefit from reducing their energy load because the utility pays them for the reduction. Utilities benefit from avoiding the need to procure expensive resources from the supply side and/or invest in costly peaker power plants. This translates to lower energy prices for consumers and reductions in CO2 emissions to the environment.

Electric vehicles are beginning to take advantage of this area of grid services. In California, BMW is partnering with the California utility PG&E to deliver planned load reductions to the grid by asking participating EV users to delay charging for short periods of time (and paying them for their participation). In Denmark, a pilot project on Bornholm Island tested the use of specialized software to plan charging times for EV fleets, using information from Denmark’s electricity market to charge EVs when electricity was most available (and least expensive). Finally, in Delaware, a partnership between NRG and the University of Delaware has modified EVs to feed energy back into the grid when demand for electricity fluctuates, helping the utility to balance supply and demand and netting a small profit for each car owner.

NRDC recently compiled these examples and other best practices into a report entitled “Creating the Grid-Connected Car: International Experience Using Demand Response with Electric Vehicles.” The report describes how different companies and organizations are developing ways to make sure that parked EVs are not just wasting space. By exploring techniques that allow EVs to improve electricity grid operations, these projects are showing how stationary cars can actually be productive, keeping emissions out of the atmosphere and putting money into the pockets of customers and utilities alike.

NRDC is not just shining a light on past efforts. We are taking the lessons from these examples and using them to implement a new pilot project in the world’s fastest-growing EV market: China. Last year, EV sales in China grew by 343% (including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles), thanks to substantial support from the government, which views EVs as a key solution to China’s pollution. However, despite setting ambitious growth targets, China has yet to begin exploring how it can make use of these vehicles’ charging demands once the EV market scales up.

NRDC China’s Demand Side Management team aims to change that by incorporating electric vehicles into a demand response program it has helped to design and implement in Shanghai, one of China’s largest EV markets. Later this year, NRDC will release a collaborative report with the Energy Research Institute of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, which will analyze how EV charging can be used as a demand response resource in Shanghai and what benefits it would bring to society as a whole. These include cost savings for utilities, financial incentives for consumers, and, because China’s electricity system is still primarily coal-powered, massive environmental benefits as well.

As some like to say, this will be a win-win-win, as utilities, consumers, and the environment will all enjoy a collective victory. We look forward to working with our Chinese partners on this exciting pilot project.

This post was co-authored by my colleagues Hyoungmi Kim and Princeton in Asia Fellow Colin Smith.

Comments Regarding FHWA Performance Measures for Greenhouse Gases
Comments

Comments submitted by NRDC, Center for Neighborhood Technology, and the United States Public Interest Research Group on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking “National Performance Management Measures; Assessing Performance of the National Highway System, Freight Movement on the Interstate System, and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program,” recommending GHG performance measures.

Americans Strongly Support Cleaning Up Transportation-Poll
Pete Altman Luke Tonachel Deron Lovaas

President Obama has done more than any President to protect Americans and future generations from climate change, but there is more to do. Transportation continues to be a major source of carbon pollution, accounting for about one-third nationally. There are two important ways we can cut pollution from the transportation sector: make our cars and trucks cleaner, and change how we plan our transportation systems so that we take carbon pollution into account and find ways to reduce it by providing people more efficient and cleaner options for getting around.

Luke Tonachel recently posted an update on the Obama administration's findings regarding improving vehicle fuel efficiency, while Deron Lovaas wrote about a new proposal which could result in requiring transportation planners to think about carbon and how to reduce it. Pete Altman has blogged about these as well (here and here.)

A new poll sponsored by NRDC finds overwhelming support for both approaches. The poll, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, finds that 95 percent of Americans want automakers to keep improving fuel economy for cars and trucks, while 79 percent want the government to keep increasing fuel efficiency standards. The support for higher fuel efficiency is held by 97 percent of Democrats, 94 percent of Independents, and 93 percent of Republicans. The poll also finds that 78 percent of Americans agree that “state transportation agencies should take vehicle-related carbon pollution and climate change into account when developing transportation plans, and also seek ways to reduce that pollution.” This view is held by 92 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Independents, and 64 percent of Republicans.

These approaches aren't just popular across political parties. Millennials and 18-34 year-olds (both at 88 percent), as well as women and Hispanics (both at 86 percent), are particularly inclined to agree that “state transportation agencies should take vehicle-related carbon pollution and climate change into account when developing transportation plans, and also seek ways to reduce that pollution." 

In addition, African Americans (86 percent),18-34 year-olds (85 percent), and Millennials (84 percent) are particularly inclined to agree that: 'The U.S. government should continue to increase fuel efficiency standards and enforce them.' 

(For the complete poll results, click here.) 

NRDC also released today data ranking the states by their carbon pollution from transportation—which would be affected by the national clean transportation goals (see table at right.) The top 10 biggest transportation polluting states are: Texas, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. The top 10 least transportation polluting states are: Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Montana, Maine, Idaho and North Dakota.

Based on Energy Information Administration data, among all of those states, 11 generate more than 40 percent of their total carbon pollution from transportation, suggesting that clean transportation initiatives could have a sizable impact on the key contributor to climate change. 

We think its clear that Americans have just two words to say about clean transportation: ‘Floor it.’ Americans want cleaner cars, and better planning that green lights transportation options that save money, reduces the use of oil and improves our air, health and quality of life. The Obama administration is on the right track to deliver cleaner transportation and we must resist attempts by automakers to weaken our fuel economy standardsin fact, we need to make our cars and trucks even more efficient. And we should modernize the way we plan and build the transportation systems of the future.

President Obama has an opportunity, by delivering strong results, to cement a climate legacy as firmly grounded in transportation as it has been in the power sector. Let him know you support cleaning up our transportation sector by taking action here

Symptoms of a Sick Climate
Juanita Constible

Scientists around the world just gave Earth its yearly checkup and found that our climate’s fever, heavy sweating, and intense thirst have gotten worse.

According to the 26th Annual State of the Climate, a peer-reviewed report compiled by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, Earth broke one climate record after another in 2015. In fact, the report “confirmed that 2015 surpassed 2014 as the warmest year since at least the mid-to-late 19th century.” There were also record high carbon pollution levels. Record high sea surface temperatures. Record high sea levels.  And extremes in both flooding and drought.

Since most of the country just got through a crushing “heat dome” that toppled hundreds of daily high records, let’s zero in on one piece of the 2015 State of the Climate: extremely warm days. There were 1.8 times more extremely warm days in 2015 than the long-term average, with record-breaking numbers in parts of the western United States and Canada, southern Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia. (“Extremely warm days” are defined as those warmer than 90 percent of daily maximum temperatures from 1961 to 1990.) As we’ve talked about before, extreme heat is a major health threat, killing and sickening thousands of people worldwide every year.   

To keep people healthy, we need to keep our climate healthy. Please take action now to help bring down Earth’s fever and protect future generations from dangerous heat. 

Renewable Energy Is Key to Fighting Climate Change
Noah Long Kevin Steinberger

Wind is powering an increasing amount the the American economy Mike Linenberger / NREL

Renewable energy is one of the most effective tools we have in the fight against climate change, and there is every reason to believe it will succeed. A recent New York Times column seems to imply that renewable energy investments set back efforts to address climate change—nothing could be further from the truth. What’s more, renewable technologies can increasingly save customers money as they displace emissions from fossil fuels.

Wind and solar energy have experienced remarkable growth and huge cost improvements over the past decade with no signs of slowing down. Prices are declining rapidly, and renewable energy is becoming increasingly competitive with fossil fuels all around the country. In some places, new renewable energy is already cheaper than continuing to operate old, inefficient and dirty fossil fuel-fired or nuclear power plants.

In fact, the investment firm Lazard estimates that the cost of generating electricity from wind and solar has declined by 58 percent and 78 percent, respectively, since 2009. Those cost trends are expected to continue, and coupled with the recent extension of federal tax credits for renewable energy, wind and solar growth is widely expected to accelerate over the next several years, with capacity projected to double from 2015 levels by 2021. With careful planning, renewable energy and clean energy options like increased energy efficiency and storing energy for use later will help pave the way.

In the longer term, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to establish the first national limits on carbon pollution from power plants will continue to drive renewable energy growth. Wind and solar energy will play a central role in achieving the emissions cuts required, and carbon policies like the Clean Power Plan will be critical to ensuring that low-carbon resources are prioritized over higher-emitting power plants.

The benefits are huge

In addition to the climate benefits that they will help deliver, renewables already provide a wide range of market and public health benefits that far outweigh their costs. A recent report from the Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National (LBNL) Laboratory found that renewable portfolio standards—state policies that mandate that a specific amount of the state’s electricity comes from renewables—provide a wide range of economic, health, and climate benefits. The report concluded that in 2013 alone, renewable standards across the country saved customers up to $1.2 billion from reduced wholesale electric prices and $1.3 billion to $3.7 billion from lower natural gas prices (as a result of lower demand for natural gas across the power sector).

The non-market benefits of renewable energy also are considerable. The LBNL researchers estimated that renewables supported nearly 200,000 jobs, provided $5.2 billion worth of health benefits through improved air quality, and resulted in global climate benefits of $2.2 billion. At the same time, according to a separate report by DBL Investors, the top 10 leading renewable states experienced lower electricity price increases than the bottom 10 states between 2002 and 2013.

The United States must continue—and accelerate—its clean energy growth and the transition to a low-carbon electric grid. There will be technical challenges to completing this transformation, but study after study concludes that integrating high levels of renewables into our electric grid is achievable. This is also being demonstrated in practice, as many states are already incorporating wind and solar, including in Texas, where wind has now supplied over 45 percent of the state’s total energy demand on multiple occasions, and in Iowa, as the state now generates 31 percent of its total annual power from wind.

Change is here

Much is said about the need to adapt the electric grid to the variability associated with integrating renewable energy into our electricity mix. Until recently, the huge costs of maintaining back-up generation and transmission in case they’re needed to keep the lights on when large, inflexible resources like coal and nuclear plants suddenly and unexpectedly go offline has too often been ignored. Grid managers and planners are now appropriately as concerned about the need for flexibility and predictability, assets that large fossil and nuclear plants lack. Renewable energy production is variable, but predictable (we mostly know when it will be sunny or windy). However, it can be impossible to predict when large fossil or nuclear plant will have to shut down for critical maintenance.

In a sign of the declining status of large, inflexible base load resources, PG&E recently announced it will close the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in California and replace it with 100 percent clean energy (NRDC is a signatory), PG&E explains: “California’s electric grid is in the midst of a significant shift that creates challenges for the facility in the coming decades. Changes in state policies, the electric generation fleet, and market conditions combine to reduce the need for large, inflexible baseload power plants.”

As we move forward, there are a number of grid planning practices and technologies that will help facilitate America’s transition to higher and higher amounts of renewable energy. For example, as more and more cars on the road become electric, those vehicles can help store electricity and manage peak demand so that supply and demand can be better aligned. Demand response (compensating customers for altering their electricity use at specific periods) and time of use electricity pricing can provide similar support. Leading states are currently contemplating how to design policies and market structures that support a modernized, low-carbon grid. Planning for the future can and must be done in parallel with promoting strong renewables growth in the present.

Renewable energy is already helping address climate change. It’s time to put our feet on the accelerator. 

Blog Post
Blog Post
Sustainable Shipping in Shanghai
Rhea Suh

NRDC is working with the Chinese port, the largest in the world, to cut pollution and make its operations more efficient. 

The Waigaoqiao container pier in Shanghai Xinhua/Alamy Stock Photo

On a sunny day this week in Shanghai, I went to the largest port in the world to see for myself what China is doing to cut pollution from the giant container ships that link the world’s fastest-growing economy to markets worldwide. In partnership with NRDC, China is moving forward to make its shipping cleaner, more efficient, and more sustainable.

From blue jeans and bicycles to smartphones and laptops, China will export some $2.3 trillion worth of products this year to the United States and other countries worldwide. Most of that will leave China from Shanghai and nearly a dozen other key Chinese ports that together handle roughly a third of the cargo shipped worldwide.

At Shanghai’s Waigaoqiao port, I watched towering cranes load steel cargo containers the size of railroad cars onto massive ships that can carry as much as 200 million pounds of cargo each. These ships burn diesel fuel by the tankerload. One ship can cough up as much diesel pollution as half a million trucks. That’s a lot of toxic chemicals, fine particles, and carbon pollution.

Three years ago, NRDC began working with Chinese officials to address this pollution, which is causing health problems for China’s people and contributing to global climate change. Now, China is taking action to make sure these oceangoing behemoths burn cleaner fuel and use engines that pump out lower emissions. They are also working to improve the overall efficiency of the vessels, trucks, and equipment that service the ships and to streamline loading and related operations.

The key is a national regulation China adopted last year that creates Domestic Emissions Control Areas in Shanghai and the nation’s 10 other largest ports. Under the new rule, to be phased in fully by January 2019, ships using these ports will burn diesel fuel that contains less than 0.5 percent sulfur — about 80 percent less than the average content of dirtier fuels used now.

In Shanghai, the Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) began enforcing the standards last spring. Inspectors board ships, verify fuel records, and take fuel samples for testing. Shanghai Municipal Transport Commission officials have taken other steps as well, like using trucks powered by natural gas, instead of dirty diesel fuel, to help load supplies; installing electric cranes to replace diesel-powered units; and installing equipment that will provide power to ships in their slips so captains can shut down their engines while vessels are in port.

To help support the transition to more sustainable port operations, NRDC organized a workshop last spring with the Shanghai Municipal Transport Commission and the Shanghai MSA to help familiarize local officials with international best practices and new technologies that assist in fuel monitoring and inspections.

“We treasure very much the continuous, consistent, great support from NRDC,” said one of our hosts, Jian Du, director of the foreign communications division of the Shanghai Municipal Transport Commission.

It’s a sound partnership, one of many I’m proud to say we’ve built in the 20 years NRDC has been active in China. It’s enabled our staff to develop valuable relationships with Chinese officials from the Shanghai MSA and its branches, such as Jie Che, deputy director of the Maritime Safety Administration of Pudong, the ultramodern industrial zone just across the great Yangtze River from Shanghai; Xiaodong Chen, deputy director of dangerous-goods management and pollution prevention with the Pudong MSA; and Jingzhou Chang, an inspector with the dangerous-goods management and pollution prevention office.

Often called the Paris of the East, Shanghai has long been an international center of commerce and culture. It’s the seat of China’s stock exchange. And its port and the giant ships it serves are an essential part of an economy that has built one of the largest trading empires the world has ever known.

In Shanghai and other Chinese ports, devoted officials are working to make sure China’s shipping industry can thrive in a cleaner, more sustainable way. NRDC is proud to help support that effort.

New Report: ZEV Program Needs ‘Tune-Up’ to Stay on Track
Simon Mui
Source: U.S. Department of Energy

California and nine other U.S. states have joined forces to adopt a Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEV) standard, helping to create one of the world’s largest markets for battery electric, fuel cell, and plug-in hybrid vehicles. But an NRDC-commissioned ZEV report released today shows the program needs a ‘tune-up’ to ensure the market expands well beyond current sale levels.

In fact, as I testified today before the Air Resources Board (CARB) that administers California’s program, without a ‘tune-up’ of the program, just one successful electric vehicle startup—Tesla Motors—could produce enough zero-emission vehicles to meet the entire auto industry’s requirements through 2025 with some moderate sales growth. That’s because a multitude of “extra credit” provisions are diluting the number of vehicles the auto industry will be required to deliver by more than a third.   

Given that widespread deployment of clean electric cars and trucks is necessary to achieve significant reductions in global warming pollution, improve air quality, and cut our need for petroleum, it’s imperative the ZEV standard be tuned-up so that it can help meet those goals.  

The background

The Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standard, originally adopted in California in 1990 and now in force in nine other Clean Car ZEV states, has been a catalyst for investment and innovation by automakers. Multiple automakers have brought new models to the market, new entrants are competing for market share, and continued improvements in vehicle performance are all happening. Early deployment of the technology has helped lead to a 65 percent reduction in the costs of lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles in the past five years alone.  

In 2013, the governors of eight of the ZEV states (California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont), established a joint target of placing at least 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, meaning that over 15 percent of passenger car and light truck sales would be full battery electric, fuel cell, or plug-in hybrid. Maine and New Jersey are part of the ZEV program as well, but did not sign the Memorandum of Understanding.

Why the standard needs a tune-up

Our NRDC-commissioned studyby Shulock Consultinglooked “under the hood” of the ZEV standard to more thoroughly account for factors that can affect the volume and types of vehicles that will be delivered. These include “extra-credits” automakers can receive that effectively lower their required sales level, including more credits for longer-range vehicles, historic extra credits that had been “banked,” allowing the same vehicle to earn credits in multiple states under the so-called “travel” provision, and credits generated by new entrants like Tesla. The results show that, absent a tune-up of the credit structure of the program:

  • The number of vehicles resulting will fall well short of the program’s goals and those established by the ZEV state governors.  Automakers will only need 6 percent of their new vehicle sales annually to be electric-drive under the standard by 2025, versus the original 15.4 percent goal. Some automakers already met or exceeded a 6 percent sales level in California as early as last year.  
  •  In California, only 1 million electric vehicles must be sold through 2025 to meet the ZEV standard, well short of the more than 1.6 million expected. Across the eight ZEV states that established the joint target of 3.3 million, only 2.1 million electric vehicles need to be sold by 2025, more than one-third less than intended.
  • Even moderate growth for Tesla Motors could result in that one single company meeting the entire auto industry’s ZEV obligations. Under this scenario, the standard would become “non-binding” for other manufacturers who could simply comply through purchasing credits.  

Creating an on-ramp for success

As I told ARB, which sets the rules for the standard that automakers in California and other ZEV states play by, any future program modification should be measured against the following goals:

  1. Increased certainty: Program updates should better ensure that ZEV goals will be met to deliver 1.5 million vehicles in California by 2025 and 3.3 million total across all ZEV states, retaining as many true ZEV vehicles as originally targeted.
  2. Trajectory for long-term: Consistent with California’s climate and air quality goals, establish a glide-path to reach at least 15 percent sales by 2025 and 33 to 40 percent sales by 2030.
  3. Improved product offerings: Including longer-range zero-emission vehicles and higher-performing plug-in hybrids across more diverse platforms (e.g. SUVs and light trucks).
  4. Achieve scale and success beyond California: Create a meaningful sales ramp for ZEVs in other ZEV states, ensuring sufficient product launches and marketing efforts are occurring in those markets as well.

An effective ZEV program ramp will result in automakers offering high-performing, electric-drive vehicles to consumers across all ZEV states, will help lead to diversified product portfolios including offerings in other vehicle size segments, and will activate greater marketing and outreach efforts. At the same time, state and federal programs can complement ZEV program targets through monetary incentive programs (e.g. tax rebates, utility EV rates); non-monetary rewards (e.g. carpool access); and consumer education programs. Many ZEV states have programs in place in each of the categories. However, a significant enough sales floor established by the ZEV program is necessary to help ensure market certainty and ultimate success.

What can be tuned up?

NRDC asked Shulock Consulting to evaluate different mechanisms by which the California Air Resources Board can increase the number of vehicles, ensure product diversity of long-range ZEVs and high-performance plug-in hybrids, and improve the likelihood of meeting the ZEV state governors’ goals. Possible modest changes include:

  • Stricter requirements around “extra-credits:” The standard allows automakers to receive additional credits based on an inflated, highly favorable “urban-only” or city-driving range rather than real-world range. This can result in “range inflation” of 40 percent or more. For example, a battery-electric vehicle that achieves 84 miles real-world currently receives crediting assuming 127 miles, based on urban-only driving.
  • Adding a protective floor: To ensure the program results in real deliveries each year, automakers should be required to comply with some portion of the requirements with actual vehicles (produced either by themselves or others in that year), rather than historic, banked credits. This will help ensure that – outside of unforeseen events – no automakers are relying solely on past credits or able to pull plug-in vehicle model offerings off the shelf if they’ve hit their compliance target.

Quick fixes like these could ensure the program stays on track to meet the goals of the states. The Air Resources Board, together with other ZEV states, has a great opportunity over the next year to demonstrate continuing leadership to accelerate the ZEV market.  

Connect Electric Vehicles to a Clean Power Grid in China

Plug’n’Drive Ontario/Flickr


China’s electric vehicle market is growing rapidly. Government officials view EVs as a way to establish a world-class auto industry while combating climate change and cleaning up the air. Yet the vehicles are only as clean as the power that charges them. Fueling millions of cars with electricity from coal-fired power plants would dramatically increase carbon emissions and other dangerous pollution.

NRDC is helping China prepare its electric grid to power EVs with clean, renewable energy by working with partners at the city, provincial, and national levels. We emphasize that vehicle emissions should not simply be shifted from the tailpipe of the car to the smokestack of a dirty power plant. Instead, smart policies can minimize the impact EVs have on the power sector and boost utilization of renewable power and energy-storage technology.

One strategy, for instance, is to encourage people to charge their cars when power demand is low, such as during the night, instead of in the middle of the day when factories and businesses are most active. China is generating record-breaking amounts of wind power, but the wind doesn’t blow all the time, and the grid isn’t yet prepared to store energy for later use. If drivers have incentives to charge during times of peak wind energy supply, they can fuel their cars with clean power and China can make the most of its renewable energy potential.

China is in the midst of reforming its power sector, and NRDC and our partners are working to weave smart electric vehicle policies into the grid of the future. We host roundtables on power-sector reform for leaders in government, utilities, and universities. We also share takeaways from our experience helping California design EV incentives and demand-side management programs. And we present best practices that have allowed U.S. utilities to smooth out power loads and improve grid operation and efficiency.

NRDC is also running pilot projects in Chinese cities to demonstrate that electric vehicles can expand the use of renewable energy, improve local air quality, and reduce climate impacts. This work follows our proven approach in China: partnering with local leaders to test new policies at the city or provincial level and then adapting and strengthening them along the way. As we gain support from industry and other key sectors, we then bring these clean energy solutions to the national level. 

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