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New Oregon Low Emission Vehicle Regulations

To help Oregon’s continuing effort to reduce air pollution from vehicles statewide, Oregon has adopted California’s program for Zero Emission Vehicles. The latest zero emission regulations apply to new cars and light-duty trucks and will significantly increase the number of emission-free vehicles delivered to Oregon beginning with the 2018 model year. It is difficult to predict how many Zero Emission Vehicles the rules will bring to Oregon. However, a likely scenario suggests that electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles could make up 5 percent of new vehicle sales in 2018, growing to 13 percent of sales in 2025.

Multi-State ZEV Action Plan

Emission-free vehicles will play a critical role in meeting Oregon’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. To support the widespread adoption of zero emission vehicles, Oregon joined other states with zero emission vehicle rules to develop the Multi-State ZEV Action Plan. Other states participating in the plan are California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The plan provides a coordinated approach to the increased use of ZEVs by specifying actions needed to remove barriers and facilitate the use of electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and even fuel-cell vehicles. It also includes actions such as increasing ZEVs in public fleets, promoting ZEV charging/refueling infrastructure and developing clear, consistent signage for ZEV support facilities.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, California is the only state allowed to adopt rules affecting emissions from new vehicles. But once California adopts such rules, other states may adopt the same requirements.

Periodic Program Evaluation

The Zero Emission Vehicle program establishes technology requirements to stimulate development of emission-free vehicles and bring them to commercial-scale production. The program sets ambitious goals, so California will conduct a full review of its Zero Emission Vehicle program in 2017. The purpose of the review is to assess the program's progress and recommend any necessary adjustments. Oregon DEQ will participate in this process.

electric car

Zero Emission Vehicle Rule Background

California adopted the nation’s first Zero Emission Vehicle rules in 1990. Those regulations required 10 percent of new passenger cars sold in California to be battery-electric vehicles by 2003. That requirement was found infeasible and California overhauled its program to focus instead on an incremental approach to developing emission-free vehicles. The new strategy established targets for super low-emission vehicles, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and modest numbers of battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles. Oregon adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle program effective with the 2009 model year.

Low Emission Vehicles III

At the same time Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle rules, the commission also adopted California’s Low Emission Vehicle III regulations. These rules mirror regulations adopted nationwide by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Both state and federal rules require the greenhouse gas emissions of new light-duty vehicles to average an equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The rules also reduce the emission of smog-forming pollutants 75 percent. Emissions of toxic air pollutants such as benzene, acetaldehyde and acrolein are also greatly lowered.

Oregon’s Low Emission Vehicle Rules are Cost Effective

Rules setting standards for reduced emissions will increase the average cost of new cars and trucks. However, savings from the reduced operating expenses of more efficient vehicles will more than offset any increased up-front costs. New car and truck owners can expect “off-the-lot” savings—savings that begin the first month of ownership. In addition, because Oregon has no petroleum producing industry, dollars spent on fuel quickly leave the state. Dollars saved on fuel will circulate within the state for a longer period and will help multiply the overall benefits to Oregon’s economy.

Oregon’s Rules Reinforce Federal Requirements

The requirements of the California and national programs are closely related because they were produced by the same rule negotiation between auto manufacturers with state and federal regulators. Oregon’s adoption of the Low Emission Vehicle III regulations is important because it ensures the greenhouse gas emission limits will remain in force even if efforts to weaken or repeal the federal rules succeed.

An Important Part of Oregon’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals

The Low Emission Vehicle program was one of the first significant actions taken toward Oregon’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 75 percent by 2050. When the program is fully implemented by 2025, the fleet average greenhouse gas emissions of new light vehicles will be 51 percent lower than the average emissions in 2008, before the program began.


The Low Emission Vehicle program was one of the first significant actions taken toward Oregon's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 75 percent by 2050. When the program is fully implemented by 2025, the fleet average greenhouse gas emissions of new light vehicles will be 51 percent lower than the average emissions in 2008, before the program began.

Federal Tier 3 Rules

In March 2014, EPA finalized federal regulations that mirror Low Emission Vehicle III emission limits for traditional tailpipe pollutants that Oregon previously adopted. However, EPA’s “Tier 3” rules provide an important benefit to Oregon by reducing the amount of sulfur in gasoline to 10 parts per million. That limit is needed for catalytic converters to operate most efficiently and for vehicles to meet their designed requirements.

For more information on EPA’s new regulations, visit the EPA web page for the Tier 3 Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards Program.

More Information

For more information about the development of Oregon's LEV rules and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sources, please see these Reference Materials.


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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97232
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