A zero-emissions vehicle mandate program, commonly called a ZEV mandate program, is a government regulation that requires manufacturers of vehicles to sell a specified percentage of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs). The purpose of the mandate is to accelerate the rate of ZEV deployment. Most mandates include battery-operated electric vehicles (BEVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Some also allow partial credit for sales of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).
In the United States as of 2021, ZEV mandates have been adopted by the following states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Most states have chosen to adopt regulations modeled on the California program established in 1990. Under this program, manufacturers who are classified as large-volume (greater than 20,000 vehicles sold per year) or intermediate-volume (4,501 to 20,000 vehicles sold per year) are required to fulfill an annual percentage requirement that increases each year from 2018 to 2025. Large-volume manufacturers are required to fulfill a certain percentage of their ZEV requirements through BEVs or FCEVs, while intermediate-volume manufacturers can fulfill their entire requirement through the sale of specified PHEVs.
A manufacturer receives ZEV credits upon the sale of an ZEV. Manufacturers can meet their annual requirement through ZEV sales, by using credit banked from earlier years, or by purchasing excess credits from other manufacturers who have sold more vehicles than required. Manufacturers who fail to comply are subject to financial penalties.
While as of 2021 state programs applied only to light-duty vehicles such as passenger cars and SUVs, several states are exploring mandates associated with heavy-duty vehicles.