California unveils proposal to ban new gas-powered cars by 2035

Morning traffic makes its way along a highway in Los Angeles, California, September 19, 2019.

Mike Blake | Reuters

California’s clean air regulators unveiled a plan this week that would ramp up the sale of electric and zero-emission vehicles while phasing out the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, in a serious effort to combat greenhouse gas pollution in the state.

The proposal, if passed by the California Air Resources Board, would require 35% of new passenger car sales to be powered by batteries or hydrogen by 2026, and 100% of net sales to be zero less than a decade later. The proposal also calls for zero-emission sales to make up 68% of all sales by 2030.

Shifting the transportation sector to cleaner energy is a key component of the country’s plan to combat climate change, with cars, trucks and other vehicles accounting for nearly 40% of pollution.

Electric vehicle sales in the state rose to 12.4% of total sales last year, a jump from 7.8% during 2020, according to the council.

The council is expected to vote on the proposal in August. At least 15 states, including New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, have adopted the California Vehicle Standards on Previous Clean Vehicle Rules.

The plan follows Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2020 executive order that called for the phase-out of new cars with internal combustion engines within 15 years by stipulating that all such vehicle sales produce zero emissions by 2035.

The rule will not prohibit people from owning gas-powered cars or selling them on the second-hand market.

“As Californians continue to suffer from the adverse effects of smog-forming emissions and the effects of climate change, which are expected to worsen in the coming decades, the proposed ACC II was adopted [Advanced Clean Cars II] “Regulation is critical and necessary,” the state plan said.

Newsom, when signing the executive order, said the plan could reduce the state’s emissions from cars by more than 35%, and that zero-emissions vehicles would “almost certainly” be cheaper than gas-powered cars by the time regulations start.

“Based on 30 years of work to electrify light vehicles in California, it is clear that the market is poised for a massive transformation,” the plan said.

California, which is battling worsening wildfires and drought as temperatures rise, also has a goal of transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2045.

Some environmental groups have urged the council to set stricter targets and move faster toward electric cars, arguing that the country should impose a rule to achieve 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030, five years earlier than the current proposal.

“Time is running out for the world as we know it’s disappearing in the rearview mirror,” Scott Hochberg, a transportation attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said in a statement.

“To protect people and the planet, California must free our streets from exhaust pipe pollution as quickly as possible,” Hochberg said.

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