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The Ride: California vs. EPA over fuel economy standards; new Nissan Leaf

The 2018 Nissan Leaf is a battery electric vehicle that starts at $29,990 and can travel 150 miles per charge.
The 2018 Nissan Leaf is a battery electric vehicle that starts at $29,990 and can travel 150 miles per charge.

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It was California versus the feds at a Washington D.C. hearing to negotiate a rollback of tightening fuel economy standards put in place during the Obama administration. The California Air Resources Board met Wednesday with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is considering relaxing the fuel economy for cars and light trucks being produced for the 2022 to 2025 model years.

In 2012, the Obama administration finalized stringent new standards it had negotiated with car makers to almost double the fuel economy of passenger vehicles to 54.5 mpg by 2025. The Trump administration announced it planned to review those standards earlier this year.

“My administration will work tirelessly to eliminate the industry-killing regulations,” Trump said during a speech he made in Detroit in March.

Wednesday's public hearing was a step in that process. Among the attendees were environmental groups, auto maker associations and state regulators, including the California Air Resources Board, which has been allowed to set its own fuel economy rules for the state based on a waiver it receives from the US EPA as a result of the federal Clean Air Act.

"Science doesn't change based on election results," said CARB emissions compliance chief, Annette Hebert, during Wednesday's hearing.

The night prior, Nissan threw the wraps off its 2018 Leaf. The all-electric hatchback starts at $29,990 and can travel 150 miles per charge, Nissan says. It also incorporates new self-driving features like hands-free highway driving and park assist. And the styling is normalized to make the Leaf more like a conventional car.

The 2018 Leaf won't be available until early next year, but it will make an appearance on Saturday, Sept. 16, during an event celebrating National Drive Electric Week at Los Angeles State Historic Park downtown.