California has unveiled a plan to ban new gasoline-powered cars by 2035, a move that is expected to set a bar for the auto industry and propel electric vehicle (EV) policy in the United States.
Though some eco advocates decry the timeline as a “slow road,” proponents say the plan is ambitious, as several challenges remain to build charging infrastructure and persuade consumers to buy EVs, reports the New York Times.
“We can’t get people to get vaccinated,” said Daniel Sperling, a member of the powerful California Air Resources Board and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. “Why do we think we can get them to buy an electric car? What that means is, we’re going to have to get creative about making these vehicles attractive and compelling to consumers, even beyond and above their inherent attributes.”
Under the proposed rule, 35% of new passenger vehicles sold in California must be powered by batteries or hydrogen by 2026. That provision will set into motion Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020 executive order to ban gas-powered cars. With transportation the state’s largest single source of emissions, regulators say the shift will eliminate 384 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions between 2026 and 2040.
California expects that enacting this first step will lead to all new car sales being fossil-fuel free by 2035. But executing the plan would be “a big leap,” says the Times, noting that only 12.4% of California’s cars are currently emissions-free.
But as the nation’s largest auto market—and the tenth-largest in the world—California has a strong influence on the auto industry and could set a new bar for car manufacturers. Last year, several industry leaders—including Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis—announced their “shared aspiration” to boost EV sales to 40 to 50% their national total by 2030.
“This is tremendously important,” said Sperling, who expects the rule to pass this August. He added that it will send a signal to the global auto market.
“Other countries and other states, they watch what California does. And so this will reverberate around the world.”
The rule proposal comes as President Joe Biden’s climate agenda is faltering, writes the Times. California’s action on EVs will play strongly towards Biden’s 2021 executive order calling on the government to ensure that half of all vehicles sold in the United States are electric by 2030.