West News Wire: In an ambitious move that will transform the U.S. auto business by accelerating the shift to more environmentally friendly vehicles, 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.
The proposal, which establishes the nation’s most stringent timetable for shifting away from gas-powered cars, will be put to a vote by the California Air Resources Board on Thursday. However, it doesn’t make such cars obsolete.
After 2035, people can still purchase used cars and drive gas-powered automobiles. The proposal also permits plug-in hybrid vehicles, which can run on both gas and batteries, to account for one-fifth of sales after 2035.
But it sets a course for ultimately ending the era of filling up at the local gas station. The switch from gas to electric cars will drastically reduce emissions and air pollutants. The transition may be painful in parts of the state that are still dominated by oil; California remains the seventh-largest oil producing state, though its output it falling as the state pushes forward with its climate goals.
“The climate crisis is solvable if we focus on the big, bold steps necessary to stem the tide of carbon pollution,” Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. He 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.”
There are practical hurdles to overcome to reach the goal, notably enough reliable power and charging stations. California now has about 80,000 stations in public places, 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 (the California Air Resources Board) or the auto industry,” John Bozella, the group’s president, said in a statement.
Though the state makes up 10% of the U.S. car market, it’s home to 43% 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. About 16% of cars sold in California in the first three months of this year were electric.
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, and Canada has mandated the sale of zero emission cars by the same year. The Chinese province of Hainan said this week it would do the same by 2030.
In 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.
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.
The new electric vehicle rules will also require federal approval, which is considered likely with President Joe Biden in the White House. A future Republican president, though, could challenge California’s authority to set its own car standards, as the Trump administration did.