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Tesla’s ZEV credits in the United States are poised to become even more valuable

(Credit: Tesla)

Tesla has made a fortune of sorts selling ZEV credits to rival automakers, but with the passing of the United States Inflation Reduction Act, it appears that the electric vehicle maker’s credits could become an even more desirable commodity. This should help Tesla bolster its numbers, which would be extremely helpful as the company attempts to reach its target of 20 million vehicles by 2030. 

The Inflation Reduction Act is poised to shake up the US auto sector, but even with its disruption, automakers would still need to collect ZEV credits in California and other ZEV states, which have applied some of CA’s regulations. Under the system, automakers gain anywhere from partial to multiple credits based on a zero-emission vehicle’s range towards requirements based on the company’s overall sales volume. 

Automakers are allowed to stockpile EV credits, but in the event that a company fails to sell enough zero-emission vehicles, they must purchase credits from other carmakers. Tesla has been a go-to company for ZEV credits for years, thanks in no small part to the company’s electric-only lineup. And with Tesla’s sales growing at an immense pace, the EV maker is poised to sit on an even bigger hoard of environmental credits that can be sold to rival carmakers. 

As noted by Automotive News, ZEV rules are expected to change in 2026, and it will make things quite a bit trickier for companies that still depend on fossil fuel-powered cars. Under the updated system, each battery or fuel cell electric car with a minimum of 150-mile battery range will receive only one credit. Credits will also have a five-year validity, unlike those earned today, which do not have an expiry date. 

Tesla has earned the most credits in California, and at the end of 2020 — the most recent year when ZEV states reported automaker balances — the EV maker logged an impressive stockpile of 752,445 credits. It should be noted that 2020 was a year when Tesla sold around 500,000 vehicles. The EV maker sold 936,172 cars the following year. Estimates suggest that Tesla had collected about 2 million credits from the start of 2021 to the end of 1H22. 

Tesla booked about $2.1 billion in revenue from credit sales in 2021 and Q1 2022. And while the value of a ZEV credit could be flexible depending on demand, it appeared that Tesla averaged about $3,500 each, according to Auto News

California is at the forefront of the United States electric vehicle movement, and it appears that it intends to keep its place. The state recently approved an initiative to increase its minimum zero-emission vehicle requirement to 35% of a carmaker’s sales by 2026, and 100% in 2035. With California adopting this aggressive target, a lot of the other ZEV states could follow. And considering that California and the other 14 ZEV states account for almost 40% of new vehicle sales in the United States, the demand for ZEV credits could very well increase. 

And that, ultimately, is a golden opportunity for Tesla and its growing hoard of ZEV credits.

Tesla’s ZEV credits in the United States are poised to become even more valuable
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