GM to recognize California emissions standards, allowing state to buy its fleet vehicles

Hayley Harding
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. announced Sunday it would recognize California's authority under the Clean Air Act to set vehicle emissions standards, a move that will allow the state to consider the company for fleet vehicle purchases.

The company "is committed to emissions reductions that are aligned with the California Air Resources Board's targets and ... complying with California's regulations," said Omar Vargas, vice president and head of global public policy for GM in a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom. A spokeswoman shared the letter with The Detroit News on Sunday.

General Motors employees work on a production line at Orion Assembly in Orion Township, Mich., on July 21. The plant has been closed since August because of problems with the lithium-ion batteries that go into Chevrolet Bolts produced there.

The agreement puts GM on the state's original equipment manufacturer list of companies that recognize the state's requirements. Other companies on the list, according to the state's website, include Ford Motor Co., BMW, Honda Motor Co., Tesla, Volkswagen and Volvo.

GM committed on Sunday to accelerating the rollout of its zero-emission vehicles. In a letter to Liane Randolph, chair of the California Air Resources Board, the company also committed to "develop plans to ensure (zero-emission vehicle) affordability in disadvantaged and low-income communities in substantial volumes."

The letter, signed by David Strickland, GM's vice president of global regulatory affairs and transportation technology policy, also agreed to improve access to charging infrastructure for customers. That includes pre-paid charging cards, partnerships to build infrastructure and more, the letter said, especially in low-income communities.

"GM is proud to share California’s vision of an all-electric future with zero emissions,” Vargas said in a statement. “We believe everyone should have access to affordable, long-range electric vehicle options, and we are committed to working in collaboration with California to achieve an equitable transportation future. We’re all in on putting everybody in an EV.”

Newsom said in a statement that California welcomed GM to its "clean vehicle revolution."

"This agreement will help accelerate California's nation-leading commitment to tackling the climate crisis," he said.

GM has promised to be carbon neutral by 2040 in its global products and operations. By 2035, the company has said, it aims to eliminate tailpipe emissions from new vehicles.

The Environmental Protection Agency last month finalized new auto emissions rules that are some of the most stringent yet, designed to push the country toward electric cars.

Former President Donald Trump had tried to ban California from making its own emissions standards. GM was part of a legal battle between the Trump administration and California over whether the state could set its own rules on emissions and fuel economy, but it dropped out just a few weeks after Joe Biden was elected president in 2020, saying its goals aligned with the president-elec.