The 1960s and 1970s were great times for car enthusiasts. We saw cars like the DeTomaso Pantera and 911 Carrera RS 2.7. But it was also a horrible time for air quality and pollution, especially for places like Los Angeles.
Driving cars back then was far more dangerous than it is today, crash standards hadn’t been filled developed, things like ABS, airbags, and traction control weren’t required, and emissions regulations didn’t really exist. Walking through the thick smog air of the Los Angeles Basin was was a health and safety concern too. Fortunately, there were some smart politicians in California at the time who were spearheading new rules and regulations for what came out of the tail-pipes of cars sold in California. This was also the same time that the EPA was rolling out the new Clean Air Act, but as California rule-makers were ahead of their time, they actually convinced the EPA to give them a carve out in the new federal laws. This was a time when California was pushing harder than any other state government on the matter of cleaner emissions standards, so much so that California was actually written into the national Clean Air Act by name. California was granted a “waiver” to restrict tailpipe pollution more strictly than the federal government.
Most times when we hear the term “waiver” - we think that someone or entity is being given a pass or exception from a requirement. In this particular case, it‘s the opposite. The California waiver to the Clean-Air Act is a set of higher restrictions for tailpipe emissions set for automakers looking to sell vehicles in California. Being that California is the car sales capital of the country, thats a hell of a lot of cars that need to meet California standards. As part of the waiver carve-out, other states can choose to opt into California’s standards: Fifteen states did. What this means is that if you’re an automaker trying to sell cars in America, you’re actually designing your cars to be sold to California standards.
In fact, California is the golden standard for most of the world. As car manufacturers are constantly looking to increase their profit margins by reducing costs, more times than not they’ll design against the toughest requirements, thus not having to design completely different versions of cars for individual markets. Such a waiver has kept the industry in check for years. Everyone knows the target they need to hit, and with product development cycles for car manufacturers anywhere between 7-10 years, they need these references well in advance.
It’s California, not the EPA, that is pushing for 15% of all cars sold in California to be hydrogen or electric by 2025. In 2016, that number was roughly 3%. It was California’s initiative, pushing along the EPA, that caused car manufacturers to roll out hybrid/electric options over the past five years. Vehicles like the Ferrari LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 wouldn’t have become top priorities if it weren’t for California lawmakers pushing the subject, so in that regard, as car enthusiasts we have to thank the law-makers of California. It is California that is driven national car market, and therefore, most of the world, and that includes enthusiasts vehicles as well — the sexy stuff the sells the not-so sexy.