Ford Focus Electric

To quote L.L. Cool J, automakers concerned about stricter alt-fuel mandates keeping "going back to Cali, Cali, Cali." It remains to be seen whether the EPA responds by saying, "I don't think so."

Last week, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to step in and possibly nullify California's zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandates set to start in 2018, Automotive News reports.

The Auto Alliance is happy to promote the idea that its members are selling more cars, but the two big automaker groups are taking issue with the requirement that 1.4 million ZEVs – including plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles – be sold in California by 2014. That requirement may jump to about 2 million after factoring in the nine other states that are likely to follow the Golden State's lead for their own ZEV requirements. The groups tell the EPA that it's "highly unlikely" that automakers will be able to hit those numbers. Of course, there are ZEV credits available to those companies that fail to meet the ZEV mandate, as described here.

Last month, California outlined its ZEV Action Plan and said it would do things like subsidize electric-charging discounts and charging-infrastructure build-out in order to help push up those numbers. California, the most populous US state, accounts for about 12 percent of the country's total vehicles and about 40 percent of its plug-ins.