California is going full steam ahead with its plan to ban the sale of new, gas-guzzling cars. On Thursday, the California Air Resources Board, the state’s top air pollution regulator, voted overwhelmingly to phase out all new fossil-fuel car sales in the state by 2035.
“This is a historic moment for California, for our partner states and for the world as we set out on this path to a zero-emissions future,” Liane Randolph, president of the air board, said at the meeting that preceded the vote. . The new rule “will ensure that consumers can successfully replace their traditional combustion vehicles with new or used ones. [zero-emission vehicles] and plug-in hybrids that meet their transportation needs,” he added.
Currently, about 12 percent of all new cars sold in the state are electric vehicles. The rule requires automakers to increase that number progressively, nearly tripling it to 35 percent by 2026 and climbing to 100 percent by 2035. The new rule is the result of a executive order 2020 from Governor Gavin Newsom, who set a goal of 100 percent zero-emission car and truck sales within 15 years. (The requirement does not apply to used car sales.)
The announcement comes on the heels of the US Congress passing a landmark measure to invest nearly $370 billion in clean energy and other climate-related measures earlier this month. The new law, when combined with existing policies and economic trends, is expected to reduce US carbon emissions by about 40 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The Biden administration has set itself a more ambitious goal to cut carbon pollution in half by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. California’s new rule is expected to spur adoption of electric vehicles and help the country meet these goals.
The Golden State has great influence in the automotive world. If the state were a country, it would be the 10th largest car market on the planet. Fourteen states, primarily in the Northeast, and the District of Columbia have copied California’s low-emission vehicle mandates in the past. If the air board’s rule to ban sales of new gasoline-powered cars wins approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, other states are likely to adopt similar measures.
California’s authority to set vehicle emission standards more stringent than the US government has been the subject of lawsuits and political ping pong in the past. In 2019, the The Trump administration recalled the state’s ability to set its own air quality standards. The Biden administration has since he reestablished that authority. Automakers such as Toyota and General Motors also initially questioned California’s right to set its own emissions standards, but have most recently regressed.
At the public meeting, Steve Douglas, vice president of the auto industry group Alliance of Automotive Innovation, said the industry “is fully committed to electrification” but raised multiple questions about whether consumers, particularly those in low-income communities, will they be able to afford zero-emission vehicles and charge them conveniently, as well as whether the battery supply chain is sufficient to produce the number of electric vehicles needed in such a short time.
“Ensuring the success of this regulation depends on much more than this regulation,” he said.
A Kia Corporation representative also said the company supports the rule, but noted that meeting it will be a “challenge” in part due to higher material costs, supply chain stress and inadequate charging infrastructure. “Automakers could have significant difficulty meeting the soft target given elements outside of the industry’s control,” he added.
Environmental justice groups also raised concerns about the rule’s effect on low-income communities. The rule includes incentives for automakers to sell electric vehicles at a discount in disadvantaged communities, but advocates argued that it is not enough to make electric vehicles affordable for Californians. With the average cost of an electric vehicle hovering around $66,000, they said Californians of color could be left behind.
“This rule had the opportunity to be transformative, but unfortunately it only does the bare minimum,” said Román Partida-López, an attorney with the Greenlining Institute, an Oakland-based environmental justice nonprofit. The equity provisions in the rule are “limited, voluntary, and provide no certainty that automakers will participate,” he added.
Despite the substantial upfront costs of electric vehicles, the California Air Resources Board Dear that the rule will save car owners more than $90 billion in operating costs between 2026 and 2040. Most of the savings are at the pump: The analysis assumes gas prices will hover around $4 a gallon, but Savings are even greater if prices stay at current levels or soar higher.
There are also significant benefits for the environment and public health. Taking more gasoline-powered cars off the road would eliminate the equivalent of nearly 400 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions between 2026 and 2040, according to the agency. That’s roughly the effect of shutting down more than 100 coal plants for a year. Pollutants such as nitrous oxides and particulate matter, which lead to smog formation and cause respiratory disorders, are projected to decline by 70,000 tons and 4,550 tons over the 15-year period, respectively. The agency estimates that the decrease in pollution will lead to nearly 1,300 fewer cardiopulmonary deaths and about 650 fewer emergency room visits for asthma.
“This rule is critical to reducing harmful pollution and will save thousands of lives and reduce emergency room visits for asthma and other health emergencies across the state,” said Mariela Ruacho, Clean Air Advocacy Manager for the Association. Lung Disease in California, in an email. to Grist. Ruacho said her group’s research showed that transitioning to zero-emission vehicles will save thousands of lives, with Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area seeing some of the biggest benefits. “This policy to accelerate zero emissions is necessary for California to meet our health-protective air quality and climate standards.”