California has decided to disrupt its own vehicle landscape, and perhaps that of the country. The state’s Air Resources Board voted on Thursday to approve a policy that will ban sales of gasoline-powered vehicles in favor of electric vehicles or other net-zero-emissions vehicles by 2035.
The rule, first reported by The New York Times, sets intermediate goals on the road to a gas-free future: 35% of new vehicle sales should be free of fossil fuel emissions by 2026, l target increased to 68%. in 2030. More than a dozen states that typically follow California’s lead in vehicle regulations may soon follow, dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The transportation sector remains the nation’s largest source of climate-changing emissions, and requiring zero-emission vehicles would help meet the ambitious climate goals set by the Biden administration.
“This is great news,” said Benjamin Welle, director of integrated transportation and innovation at the World Resources Institute. “California has been a leader in clean car standards and I think that can provide a serious boost to phasing out [internal combustion engines].”
But it won’t be easy. A closer look at the vehicles used by Californians highlights the challenge of such an ambitious transition, even in a state that leads the nation in environmental regulations involving vehicles.
California has more than 17 million vehicles registered with model years after 2010, according to a Grid analysis of data from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Eighty-two percent of vehicles registered in California rely solely on gasoline, the data shows. The remaining 18% – 3.2 million vehicles – include battery-electric vehicles, such as Teslas, as well as gasoline-powered hybrid models, such as the Toyota Prius. Others in this group include hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
According to the data, only 3.3% of vehicles registered in California are battery electric. About two-thirds of them are Teslas. The data, which counts vehicle make, weight and fuel types by postcode, was last updated in January 2021. This limits analysis of newer vehicles, but the data offers the record most comprehensive audience of vehicles on California roads.
“The transition to electric vehicles is already underway, and this rule helps accelerate that transition,” said Kathy Harris, clean vehicle and fuels advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Automakers have already announced $86 billion in electric vehicle investment along with a growing number of electric vehicle models – from sedans to SUVs to trucks – with more announcements coming out every day. “
So far, a closer look at the data shows that electric vehicles are concentrated in affluent neighborhoods in Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as the Bay Area. The postcode with the highest concentrations of Teslas, for example, is centered around Atherton, a wealthy Bay Area enclave adjacent to Stanford University and not far from the headquarters of Apple, Google and Meta. .
The average household income there is around $300,000, more than three times that of the typical California zip code.
“I don’t know if this is a tipping point, but it’s significant because California is one of the largest automotive markets in the world,” said Bradley Lane, associate professor with the program. Urbanism from the University of Kansas which focuses on EV Adoption and Policy. “Automakers are not going to make a different set of powertrains for sale in California (or any other state that has banned them by 2035, like New York) than the rest of the country or the world.”
California, which accounts for about 12% of the U.S. population, had about 39% of its all-electric vehicles by the end of 2021, according to the Energy Department. Two other populous states, Florida and Texas, also lead in electric vehicles, according to the data.
Welle said there is now a real possibility that other states will also adopt the California rule; this has happened in the past with vehicle emissions standards. And if the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement are to be met, meeting California’s targets is essential.
“The world will have to have 100% elimination of [internal combustion engine] light vehicle sales by 2035,” he told Grid. “So this is where the world should be.” He agreed, however, that the new vehicle sales requirements do not necessarily take all of those existing gas-powered vehicles off the road. “Doing so is another matter.”
Thanks to Alicia Benjamin for writing this article.