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USA: Calif.’s tougher ZEV mandate sparks new market for clean-air credits

A new front is opening in the emerging market for electric vehicles — not for selling cars, but for credits required to meet clean-air rules.

Starting this year, California is requiring the biggest automakers to sell increasing numbers of “zero-emission vehicles,” or ZEVs, such as pure-electric, plug-in hybrid and hydrogen-powered autos. Companies that fail to meet their quotas have the option of buying ZEV credits from rivals that exceed their targets.

Nissan Motor Co. says it may sell credits earned in the past two years from its battery-powered Leaf, the best-selling all-electric car in the United States.

“We are in a fortunate position of having positive credit, so that’s obviously something we are able to look at,” Andy Palmer, an executive vice president, said Tuesday at the carmaker’s headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. “We are exploring some plans, but we haven’t announced anything yet.”

Tesla Motors Inc., the startup led by billionaire Elon Musk, revealed in a June 2010 filing that it had sold credits to Honda Motor Co. and another automaker it didn’t identify. Tesla didn’t disclose the number of credits sold or the price.


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