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The California Air Resources Board (CARB), one of the state's most influential regulatory bodies, voted late last week to approve a set of new rules that aim to reduce emissions from cars and light trucks.

Dubbed the "Advanced Clean Cars" program, the initiative will concentrate on controlling greenhouse-gas (GHG) and pollutant emissions for vehicle model years 2017 through 2025. According to CARB, the program is targeting a 75% reduction in smog-forming emissions from new vehicles by 2025, compared to 2014 levels, as well as a 34% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from 2016 levels.

Program requirements will call for heightened standards for diesel- and gasoline-powered cars, as well as set the stage for a more aggressive deployment of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. For instance, zero-emission vehicles and plug-in hybrids will need to comprise more than 15% of new sales by 2025.

The initiative also focuses on improving the marketplace for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, including the development of hydrogen refueling infrastructure. In fact, CARB suggests that hydrogen-powered vehicles must ultimately represent more than half of all cars and light-duty trucks on the road in California in order to meet the state's aggressive GHG target: 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

"California is putting the pedal to the metal on electric cars and healthier air by strengthening its clean-car standards," David Friedman, deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles program, said in a statement. "With these new standards, California will give car buyers a real choice between the fuels of the past and the clean cars of the future."

CALSTART, a nonprofit serving the clean transportation industry, was also encouraged by CARB's decision. John Boesel, the group's president and CEO, said the vote was "truly historic."

"The suite of strong pro-clean car policies adopted by [CARB] were made possible because of the tremendous technological progress made by the industry over the last 20 years, and because of the potential going forward," Boesel said.

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