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California Bans the Sale of New Gas-Powered Cars by 2035

The California Air Resources Board voted unanimously to phase out the sale of new fossil fuel-burning cars in the largest state in the nation, setting the stage for a wider adoption of electric vehicles.

California will phase out the sale of new fossil fuel-burning cars by 2035, establishing the state as the most consequential leader in the nation for the advancement of electric vehicles, and firmly position the car industry toward an electric future.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted unanimously Thursday in favor of the Advanced Clean Cars II regulation, seen as the state’s most far-reaching piece of public policy to address climate change, re-orient an entire industry and address air quality in some of the state’s most vulnerable communities.

The Clean Cars II rules require that 35 percent of model 2026 new passenger vehicles sold in California will be zero-emission vehicles, increasing to 68 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035.

The requirement, a regulatory package years in the making, addresses issues like driving range, charging, battery labeling, battery life and perhaps most significantly — ensuring the access to EVs by low-income or disadvantaged communities.

“This is absolutely historic,” beamed Dean Florez, a member of CARB, and a former California state senator, in his comments prior to the board’s vote. “Climate change is the single most generational challenge we are facing today."

“Today’s action creates an absolutely new course,” he added.

The move by CARB follows landmark steps taken by the Biden administration to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission cars, first with the bipartisan passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will help to build out a national network of high-speed charging opportunities; and then with the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, a package of initiatives targeting the energy and transportation sectors to address climate change.

In California, the transportation sector accounts for about 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions; however, zero-emission autos continue to gain ground in the state. By the end of the second quarter this year, EVs made up 16.6 percent of new car sales.

Daniel Sperling, a member of CARB, called the move Thursday, “the most important and the most transformative action that CARB has ever taken.”

“And it has global implications,” he added.

The regulatory agency heard more than two hours of testimony and public comment during its meeting, which struck any number of tones — ranging from the eventual ban of new gas-powered cars is not enough to it’s a step too far. Business groups tended to urge restraint.

Marcus Gomez, central regional chair for the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, described the policy as, “too much, too fast,” adding the combination of forces like the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation has its members “struggling to keep their doors open.”

Steve Douglas, vice president for energy and the environment at Alliance for Automotive Innovation, said the auto industry has been firmly moving toward electrification, but raised concerns about the affordability of EVs.

“We can build electric vehicles. But can consumers afford them?” said Douglas in his comments during the board meeting. “In short, the success of this regulation depends on a lot more than this regulation.”

Price parity between EVs and gas-powered cars is headed in the right direction, said CARB member Hector de La Torre, adding parity will likely be reached between 2025 and 2030. Today, however, EVs are, for the most part, more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts. But with more models being released, prices are trending more competitive and state incentives — like the Clean Vehicle Rebate program — combined with federal incentives make EVs a more attractive option.

The move by the state follows a previous regulatory change in 2020 which will transition medium- and heavy-duty trucks in California on a path to zero emissions. Starting in 2024, manufacturers will be required to sell a portion of their vehicles as zero emissions, with all new trucks, buses and similar vehicles to be battery electric or hydrogen-electric by 2045.

“This is the appropriate response to the climate emergency,” said CARB member John Balmes. “We have to do this.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.