California air regulators are set to vote Thursday on a landmark plan that would effectively require all new cars sold in the state to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2035 — a move that would place the nation’s most populous state at the forefront of phasing out internal combustion. engines and the noxious planet-warming gases they emit.
If approved, the regulations are expected to significantly reduce vehicle carbon dioxide emissions and smog-forming nitrogen oxides over the next two decades. It could also pave the way for the transformation of America’s aging gasoline-powered automobile fleet.
“The climate crisis can be solved if we focus on the big, bold steps needed to stem the tide of carbon pollution,” Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. “California now has a groundbreaking, world-class plan to achieve 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035. It’s ambitious, it’s innovative, it’s the action we need to take if we really want to leave this planet better for future generations. ”
The proposed rules would establish a credit system for automakers supplying California auto dealerships and would go into effect in 2026. In that year, 35% of all new cars an automaker sells to California dealerships would have to be either hybrids zero-emission rechargeable or hydrogen vehicles. This would increase to 68% in 2030 and 100% in 2035.
If automakers failed to meet the prescribed percentages, they would be required to obtain credits from another manufacturer that exceeded that quota. The state could also penalize automakers that don’t meet targets, fining them about $20,000 for each vehicle that falls below their target in a given year.
In the two years since Newsom signed an executive order directing the California Air Resources Board to plan to phase out sales of new gas-powered vehicles, the board has avoided calling the directive a “ban.”
“Some new gasoline-powered vehicles will still be allowed to be sold, but they must be plug-in hybrids,” the council says on its website. These so-called PHEVs, however, must be able to travel at least 50 miles on batteries before switching to gas.
According to air quality officials, the new regulations would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars by more than 50% in 2040, compared to if no action were taken. Tailpipe emissions are the largest contributor of carbon dioxide in California and accounted for about 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.
Additionally, state officials say the plan would reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxides by more than 25% by 2037. They estimate the rule will result in more than 1,400 fewer heart disease deaths and help Californians avoid more than 700 emergency room visits for asthma between 2026 and 2040.
While the rule could eventually signal the demise of gas-powered cars, some environmental organizations say the interim targets aren’t ambitious enough.
Regina Hsu, senior associate attorney for Earthjustice, said several countries have more ambitious goals, including Norway, which plans to phase out new gas-powered cars by 2025, and the Netherlands, which is aiming for all zero-emission vehicles by 2030. In the United States, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has set a goal of phasing out new gas-powered cars in the state by 2030 (although this is a non-binding commitment).
“The ramp we see is not as strict as it could be,” Hsu said. “We think that [the air resources board] kind of missed an opportunity here to be more ambitious. And this rule will leave the benefits of clean air and climate on the table.
“Based on automaker projections, this rule isn’t that ambitious,” Hsu said. “We think it kind of follows what the automakers were planning to do and it doesn’t have the regulatory mechanisms that will push them to do more, especially in a state like California where we have regions with the worst air quality in the country.”
Hsu also said more needs to be done to help working-class families buy zero-emission vehicles, noting that the median individual income in the state was $41,000.
California holds the distinction as the only state that can regulate cars, due to a provision in the Clean Air Act that allows it to request a waiver from federal rules. Other states can follow California’s stricter standards, including zero emissions goals that will be voted on this week.
Today, California is home to approximately 43% of all electric vehicles in the country. In 2021, approximately 12% of new vehicle sales were zero-emission or plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Assn., which represents more than 1,200 new car and truck dealer franchise members, said the organization is “all-in” on the transition to zero vehicles. emission.
However, the organization has a number of concerns about the pace this transition to 100% zero-emission vehicles will take.
In public comments to state officials, the group raised concerns about supply chain stability, including increased demand for raw materials (such as lithium used to make electric car batteries) .
Dealers and consumers have seen new car prices hit historic highs, driven by rising inflation, a crippling shortage of semiconductors and increased demand during the pandemic.
Affordability has been one of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. The average cost of new cars, Maas said, is over $45,000. For electric vehicles, which some say have an outsized luxury catalog, the average cost is $66,000.
“Assuming this rule is passed, we will have to do what we can to help manufacturers figure out how to bring down the price to manufacture these cars,” Maas said. “Because if they are not affordable to consumers, it will delay the transformation to electrification.”
State officials estimate that the price of electric vehicles could reach parity with gas-powered cars by 2030.
However, Maas worries if that doesn’t happen, it could drive consumers to keep buying used gas-powered vehicles or new out-of-state gas-powered vehicles.
He argued that the California Air Resources Board should establish a formal review period to assess market conditions halfway to the 2035 target.
“I think what we’re asking Californians to do — and other states that follow California — is change personal transportation in a way that hasn’t changed since we moved from horses to internal combustion engines. “Maas said.
“We are going to have to change the way we fuel these vehicles, from gas stations to chargers. We’re going to have to figure out how to repair these vehicles. How long do the batteries last? How are batteries recycled? So there are a lot of questions related to that – all subsumed under the rather laudable goal of saying, “You know what? We must convert to electrification because it is better for our society. We’re all up for it. We just want to make sure that as we move down this path, we all work together to answer all of these questions,” he said.
Los Angeles Times