California has a tetrad of new laws aimed at increasing the use of zero-emission vehicles and boosting the electric vehicles market in the state.

Just two days before he was set to speak at a summit meeting on climate change at the United Nations, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law four bills designed to make zero-emission and near-zero-emission vehicles more affordable for low-income families and put at least one million of these vehicles on California roads by 2023.

The first of the new laws, the Charge Ahead California Initiative introduced by Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, mandates the State Air Resources Board to create a plan that will allow the state's low-income residents to more easily take advantage of California's rebate program that provides extra credit to citizens who would like to purchase or lease electric and hybrid vehicles.

Under the legislation, owners of older gas-guzzling cars will be able to receive rebates on top of existing payments. To date, the board has so far issued around 75,000 rebates for vehicle owners switching over to zero-emission cars. The law also orders the board to provide assistance to car sharing programs and construct charging stations for electric vehicles in low-income communities.

A related law initiated as a bill by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi of Torrance will allow for 15,000 additional vehicles to get Green Stickers to allow driving in carpool lanes regardless of how many people are riding in the car. This raises the total number of Green Sticker vehicles from 55,000 to 70,000.

Another bill allows drivers of clean-air vehicles to drive through freeways with zero or reduced toll rates. In San Francisco and Riverside and Orange Counties, high-occupancy toll lane operators are already charging minimal or no rates for drivers of electric vehicles.

Gov. Brown also signed into law a bill that allows governments to have their constituents consider paying a $5 annual fee to be tacked on to their vehicle registrations for the construction of bike lanes, bike lockers and related facilities.

"We are carrying on because we know in California that carbon pollution kills, it undermines our environment, and long-term, it's an economic loser," says (video) Gov. Brown in a statement. "There has to be a price on carbon, because there is a price on carbon -- it's the consequences to health, to the economy, and to our climate."

California has more clean-air vehicles than any other state in the country, with 40 percent of all sales of plug-in and hybrid vehicles made by California's residents. Around 100,000 electric cars were sold in the state in the last four years.

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