California is poised to set a 2035 deadline for all new cars, trucks and SUVs sold in the state to be powered by electricity or hydrogen, an ambitious step that will reshape the U.S. car market by speeding the transition to more climate-friendly vehicles.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the 2035 goal two years ago and regulators have spent the time since then working out the details of what Newsom termed “the action we must take if we’re serious about leaving this planet better off for future generations.” The California Air Resources Board (CARB) will vote Thursday on the policy, which will be closely watched in the auto industry and across the U.S.
Massachusetts, Washington and New York are among states that have set goals to transform their car markets or have already committed to following California’s new rules.
Governments across the globe are pushing to eliminate combustion automobiles to mitigate the impact of climate change.
The European Parliament in June backed a plan to effectively prohibit the sale of gas and diesel cars in the 27-nation bloc by 2035.
Canada last year bumped up its timeline for zero-emission automobiles to 2035. The most recent federal budget extended incentives and expanded eligibility for a program to entice more Canadians to buy electric vehicles, though the country’s largest province scrapped EV rebates in 2018 and doesn’t appear to be reconsidering that decision.
California has historically been granted permission by the U.S. Environmental Protection agency to set its own tailpipe emissions rules for cars, and 17 other states follow some or all of its policies.
California’s new rules will also require federal approval, which is considered likely with President Joe Biden in the White House. The infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year provides $5 billion US for states to build chargers every 80 kilometres along interstate highways.
A future Republican president, though, could challenge California’s authority to set its own car standards, as the Donald Trump administration did. House Republicans on Wednesday blasted what it called “false claims” of the Biden administration concerning the boost to the economy from an electric vehicle push, bemoaning the recent Ford announcement of hundreds of job losses in North America as the company restructures for the future.
Over the past 12 years, California has provided more than $1 billion in rebates for the sale of 478,000 electric, plug-in or hybrid vehicles, according to CARB. Though the state makes up 10 per cent of the U.S. car market, it’s home to 43 per cent of the nation’s 2.6 million registered plug-in vehicles, according to the air board.
California climate officials say the state’s new policy will be the world’s most ambitious because it sets clear benchmarks for ramping up electric vehicle sales over the next dozen years. By 2026, for example, one-third of new cars sold must be electric. For context, about 16 per cent of cars sold in California in the first three months of this year were electric.
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Complex charging station, grid issues
The plan will not eliminate gas-powered cars. People can continue driving gas-fuelled vehicles and purchasing used ones after 2035. The plan also allows for one-fifth of sales after 2035 to be plug-in hybrids that can run on batteries and gas.
The switch from gas to electric cars will drastically reduce emissions and air pollutants but will be a difficult transition.
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California remains the seventh-largest oil producing state in the U.S. and at present has about 80,000 public charging stations, far short of the 250,000 it wants by 2025. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents many major car makers, flagged the lack of infrastructure, access to materials needed to make batteries, and supply chain issues among the challenges to meeting the state’s timeline.
“These are complex, intertwined and global issues well beyond the control of either [CARB] or the auto industry,” John Bozella, the group’s president, said in a statement.
Newsom has pledged to spend billions to boost zero-emission vehicle sales, including by adding chargers in low-income neighbourhoods.
.<a href=”https://twitter.com/Ford?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Ford</a> continues to stand with California as we move toward ending the sale of new gas cars by 2035.<br><br>Our future depends on bold climate action & CA is proud to set the precedent for clean transportation goals. <a href=”https://t.co/nlqOMouniv”>https://t.co/nlqOMouniv</a>
Driving an electric vehicle long distances today, even in California, requires careful planning about where to stop and charge, said Mary Nichols, former CARB chair.
“This is going to be a transformative process and the mandate for vehicle sales is only one piece of it,” she said.
Adding more car chargers will put a higher demand on the energy grid. California is working to maintain reliable electricity while it moves away from gas-fired power plants in favour of solar, wind and other cleaner sources of energy.
Earlier this year, top energy officials warned the state could run out of power during the hottest days of summer as it did in 2020, although that hasn’t come to pass yet in 2022.
Newsom is pushing to keep open the state’s last-remaining nuclear plant beyond its planned closer in 2025, and the state may turn to diesel generators or natural gas plants as a backup when the grid is strained.