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California Will Ban Sales of New Gas-Powered Cars by 2035: Report

More than a dozen states could follow suit as they currently operate under California's emissions regulations.
Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

The state of California will ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035, the New York Times reports. The new rules are expected to be signed into effect on Thursday, and they could have a ripple effect on new car sales across the country. More than a dozen other states follow the California Air Resources Board’s lead when setting their own emissions policies, and it’s possible that they’ll adopt this ban as well. 

The rules take aim at fossil fuel emissions that contribute to climate change. In addition to the 2035 deadline, interim targets have also been set along the way. By 2026, 35 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in California must produce zero emissions. That figure jumps to 68 percent by 2030 before reaching 100 percent five years later.

“California will now be the only government in the world that mandates zero-emission vehicles. It is unique,” Margo Oge told the New York Times. Oge formerly served as the director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality from 1994 to 2012. While other countries have enacted goals for phasing out the sales of new gasoline-powered cars, California could be the first to enact firm regulations with set mandates. 

As the New York Times notes, California is the United States’ largest market for new cars, and a significant number of other states follow its emissions regulations. According to the outlet, roughly a third of the United States automotive market is likely to adopt California’s new zero-emissions targets. At least 12 states are expected to adopt California’s new emissions targets shortly after they go into effect, and five more that follow California’s vehicle pollution reduction targets are anticipated to do the same within a year. 

That’s a tough target to meet on a short timeline. Alliance for Automotive Innovation President John Bozella told the New York Times that it would be “extremely challenging” for the large automakers his group represents to meet California’s timeline given the current challenges facing the industry. 

“Whether or not these requirements are realistic or achievable is directly linked to external factors like inflation, charging and fuel infrastructure, supply chains, labor, critical mineral availability and pricing, and the ongoing semiconductor shortage,” Bozella wrote in an email to the NYT.

Yet there is considerable momentum at the federal level to back up California’s zero-emissions push. CARB’s new rules follow the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act by President Biden. It includes $370 billion for investment in clean energy programs, including a revised electric vehicle tax credit as well as incentives for installing charging infrastructure. While it’s certainly controversial—especially with the exclusion of popular foreign-built EVs from the tax credit—it’s the United States’ most significant push yet to address climate change caused by cars.

Those investments are projected to cut emissions 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, per the New York Times, but scientists claim that still isn’t enough to avoid the deadliest impacts of climate change in the long run. So, the feds also plan on enacting further regulations on automotive emissions to meet even more aggressive climate targets. Given California’s influence on the rest of the country, it wouldn’t be surprising to see federal policy take notes from California’s new zero-emission push, either. 

California’s Clean Air Act waiver to set its own automotive emissions and mileage policies that are stricter than federal standards was restored by the Biden administration, opening the door for CARB’s new zero-emissions regulations.

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