California unveils plan to phase out new gas-powered cars by 2035

WASHINGTON — California on Wednesday released an aggressive plan to mandate a steady increase in the sale of electric and zero-emission vehicles, the first step in enacting an initial national goal of banning new gas-powered cars from here 2035.

Under the proposed rule, issued by the California Air Resources Board, the state will require 35% of new passenger vehicles sold in the state by 2026 to be powered by batteries or hydrogen. Less than a decade later, the state expects 100% of all new car sales to be free of fossil fuel emissions primarily responsible for global warming.

It would be a big step. Currently, 12.4% of new vehicles sold in California are zero-emissions, according to the council.

If the council finalizes the plan in August, it could set the bar for the country’s auto industry. California is the largest automotive market in the United States and the 10th in the world. In addition, 15 other states, including New York, Massachusetts and North Carolina, have already followed California’s tailpipe action and may adopt similar proposals.

“This is extremely important,” said Daniel Sperling, California Air Council member and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. He said the proposed rule, which he expects to pass, sends a signal to the global auto market.

“Other countries and other states, they’re watching what California is doing,” he said. “And so it will reverberate around the world.”

The proposal comes as President Biden’s climate agenda falters. Mr Biden signed an executive order last year calling on the government to try to have half of all vehicles sold in the United States be electric by 2030. Legislation that would help enable this transition by allocating billion in electric vehicle tax incentives, however, was stalled in the Senate. Meanwhile, under pressure to ease high gas prices, the president urged oil companies to drill for more oil.

The automakers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on California’s proposed rule. In a joint statement last year, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, the automaker formed this year after the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, announced their “joint aspiration” to achieve 40-50% sales of electric vehicles. nationwide by 2030.

But they need government support and a “comprehensive suite of electrification policies” to translate aspirations into action, they wrote.

Transportation is California’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.

California’s proposed rule implements an executive order Governor Gavin Newsom issued in 2020. Under the plan, 35% of new cars and light trucks sold must be zero-emissions starting in 2026. That will rise to 68% in 2030, and 100% in 2035. The plan calls for 20% of new sales to be plug-in hybrids.

According to California air pollution regulators, the rule will eliminate 384 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions between 2026 and 2040, more than the state emitted from all sources in 2019.

“These emission reductions will help stabilize the climate and reduce the risk of severe drought and wildfire and the resulting fine particulate pollution,” the state’s plan says.

Environmental groups were split on the plan. Don Anair, deputy director of the clean transport program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the measure had improved from an earlier version. He called it the “most important climate decision” the California Air Resources Council will make this year.

But Scott Hochberg, a transportation attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, accused California of taking “a slow road” and, in a statement, called on the state to end the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles for five years. earlier, by 2030.

Sperling noted that several challenges remain, including building vehicle charging stations and persuading consumers to buy electric vehicles. He said the remaining 20-30% would be the hardest part of the transition and would most likely require new policies and incentives.

“We can’t get people to get vaccinated,” he said. “Why do we think we can get them to buy an electric car? That means we’re going to have to get creative to make these vehicles appealing and appealing to consumers, even beyond its inherent attributes. »