This article originally appeared on Inside Climate News. It is republished with permission. Sign up for their newsletter here.
On August 25, California regulators passed rules banning the sale of new gas-powered cars and light trucks by 2035.
Responding to reports on the California action, Washington Governor Jay Inslee said his state would follow suit and “adopt California’s regulations by the end of this year.” Massachusetts and Virginia are also set to pass gasoline-powered vehicle bans by 2035 as well due to trigger laws that automatically follow California’s lead on clean transportation. (Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said he would try to repeal the law, which was signed by his predecessor.)
The states join New York, which passed a similar law last year banning the sale of gas-powered cars and light trucks by 2035, then expanding the ban to heavy trucks by 2045.
And, 13 other states (Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and Washington, DC have policies tied to California’s, making them leading candidates to adopt their own versions of the 2035 ban.
The state’s actions could end up being among the most significant policy changes in favor of clean cars that the United States has ever seen, sending an unequivocal signal to industry and the public about the direction the market.
The new rules have raised questions about the future of the cars. Here are some of the answers:
Does it impose restrictions on used car sales?
The California rule only applies to new car sales, so consumers can still buy and own gas-powered used cars, and they can cross state lines to buy new ones. gasoline-powered cars. And no one is going to take that classic Corvette away from you.
A more important point is that the change in policy for new cars will take some time to translate into nearly emission-free highways, as a new vehicle stays on the road for almost 20 years on average.
Does the California rule have teeth?
The answer is “yes,” according to Stepanie Searle, director of the clean fuels program and US region for the International Council on Clean Transportation.
The rule was adopted by the California Air Resources Board, or CARB, an agency with a proven track record as a political leader.
Additionally, the rule has milestones, meaning automakers must make steady progress toward 2035 goals. The rule states that zero-emission vehicles must represent 35% of new cars and light trucks sold by 2026; 68% by 2030; and 100% by 2035 at the latest.
For perspective, zero-emission vehicles accounted for 16.5% of all new cars and light trucks sold in the first half of this year in California, which accounted for the largest share of any state.
What does the auto industry think of the new California rules?
Automakers were already preparing for a largely electrified future in the mid-2030s. Rather than forcing companies to do something they didn’t want to do, states are helping the industry stick to the landing of a major transition.
“At Ford, addressing climate change is a strategic priority, and we’re proud of our partnership with California for tougher vehicle emissions standards,” said Bob Holycross, Ford Motor’s director of sustainability. in a statement, adding that the new rule “is a historic standard that will define clean transportation and serve as an example in the United States.
California is the national leader in car and light truck sales, with 11.9% of the country’s total this year, according to S&P Global Mobility. The state market is so large that automakers cannot afford not to serve it.
How does the rule treat gas-electric hybrids?
Plug-in hybrid models, which run on gasoline and electricity, can still be sold in 2035 and beyond, as long as they are capable of driving at least 50 miles exclusively on battery power and as long as the hybrids represent less than 20 % of an automaker’s new vehicles sold in-state.
CARB staff have estimated that qualifying hybrid vehicles will run on electricity for the vast majority of trips.
“They are essentially electric cars with conventional motors for special circumstances,” said David Clegern, a CARB spokesman.
Standard hybrids, which have no plug and are much more dependent on gasoline than plug-in models, are treated the same as gasoline models.
What are the climate and air quality benefits of the rule?
CARB predicts that greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks will be 62% lower in 2040 than in 2026.
Emissions of nitrogen oxides, which are a pollutant with serious effects on health, would be 70% lower in 2040 than in 2026.
The rule will result in cumulative health benefits worth about $13 billion by 2040, according to the agency.
Transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California, so this is an important step, but it’s only part of a bigger picture. The state and the country are just beginning to understand how to reduce emissions from heavy trucks, aviation and other modes of transportation.
What about concerns that electric vehicles are too expensive?
Today, an EV costs more than an equivalent gasoline-powered model. Even after the tax credits, customers typically pay a premium for an EV, which would be a problem if that were still the case when gas-powered models are no longer sold.
But, as Searle notes, list prices for electric vehicles are falling and his organization predicts that some electric models will reach cost parity with equivalent gasoline models in about five years, while the average new electric vehicle will reach cost parity. with the average petrol model by around 2030.
Already, some electric vehicles have a total cost of ownership advantage due to fuel and maintenance savings.
Rules like California’s will help accelerate cost parity, she said, as automakers increase production of electric vehicles to meet demand, which will help drive down costs.
“We can’t expect to see these cost reductions (happen) by themselves without also having the supporting policies and regulations,” Searle said. “Policies like California’s kind of force greater volumes of EV production and more (research and development) into EVs, and that’s what’s really going to drive prices down.”
Who stands to lose from this rule?
The petroleum and biofuel industries are understandably upset by rules that would reduce the use of their products.
Here’s a taste of the reaction:
“While we support the state’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, we strongly disagree that electric vehicles are the only way to get there,” said Geoff Cooper. , CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group for the ethanol industry. . “Policies that dictate the winners and losers of technology often backfire and rarely produce the desired results.”
Could a future president force California and other states to scrap these rules?
California was able to set rules to reduce vehicle emissions because it received a waiver from the US Environmental Protection Agency that offered the option of having stricter rules than the rest of the country.
Former President Donald Trump revoked the waiver, a move that led to a legal battle, which ended when Joe Biden was elected and granted the waiver.
A future president could try to do something like this with the 2035 ban. If that happened, it would be subject to a legal challenge.
Which governments outside of the United States have bans on gasoline vehicles?
California and the other states would join more than a dozen countries that are setting goals to stop the sale of gas-powered vehicles, including Canada, the United Kingdom and Norway, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation.
Norway stands out among the others because its target year, 2025, is the closest and because its EV market share is already around 90%. As I’ve written before, Norway has used financial incentives to encourage electric vehicles on a scale far beyond that of any other country.
The fact that California took action in late August, when many people are not paying attention to the reports, means the backlash may have been muted. I expect the potential spread of this rule to other states to be a major political issue in the future, as the oil and biofuel industries aim to slow the transition.
Get ready to hear a lot about how unelected bureaucrats in California dictate the types of cars you can buy.