The rule — supported by major automakers — is part of a broader package of regulations called the Advanced Clean Car program designed to cut vehicle greenhouse gas and smog-forming emissions.
The sweeping new auto emission standards could mean 1.4 million electric, fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles on California roads by 2025.
"That's actually a relatively modest goal, but that's all that we're mandating," Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, said in a conference call with reporters following the vote.
"We expect to go beyond that with other incentives we are hoping to be able to offer in terms of direct incentives to people who buy these cars (like) rebates and credits," Nichols said.
The California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to approve the program during a 2-day meeting that ended today.
The plan would also support development of an infrastructure for hydrogen fueling stations across California, the nation's largest car and light truck market.
The new rules are aimed at encouraging automakers to develop and sell more vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions.
In addition to fuel cells and pure electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, plug-in hybrids such as the Chevrolet Volt would be favored over traditional gasoline-electric hybrids because they more closely resemble pure electric vehicles, California regulators say.
The Volt is designed to run primarily on electric power, but features a gasoline-powered motor that serves as a backup to recharge the battery. Models such as the Volt are considered "transitional zero-emission vehicles" vehicles because they still feature gasoline engines.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group, Nissan Motor Co. and other automakers — usually at odds with California regulators — submitted testimony this week in support of the new standards.
Nichols applauded the auto industry's cooperation as the new rules were being developed.
"Probably the most heartening aspect of this whole rulemaking was the level of cooperation that we received from the industry," Nichols said during the call. "Overall, the degree of support for the package was just extraordinary." More at autonews.com