California moves to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035 : NPR


Electric cars are parked at a charging station in Sacramento, California.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

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Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Electric cars are parked at a charging station in Sacramento, California.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California is about to set a 2035 deadline for all new cars, trucks and SUVs sold in the state to be powered by electricity or hydrogen, an ambitious move that will reshape the U.S. auto market through the transition to accelerate more climate-friendly vehicles.

The California Air Resources Board will vote Thursday on the policy, which sets out the most aggressive roadmap in the nation to move away from gas-powered cars. However, it does not eliminate such vehicles.

People can continue to drive gas-powered cars after 2035 and buy used cars. The plan also ensures that a fifth of sales after 2035 will be plug-in hybrids that can run on batteries and gas.

But it’s charting a course to eventually end the era of refueling at the local gas station. Switching from gas to electric cars will drastically reduce emissions and air pollutants. The transition can be painful in parts of the state that are still dominated by oil; California remains the seventh largest oil-producing state, although its production is declining as the state makes progress on its climate goals.

“The climate crisis is solvable if we focus on the big, bold steps needed to turn the tide of carbon pollution,” Democratic government leader Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. He announced the 2035 target two years ago, and regulators have since spent time working out the details of what Newsom called “the action we need to take if we seriously want this planet to be better off for generations to come.”

There are practical hurdles to overcome to achieve the goal, especially sufficiently reliable power and charging stations. California now has about 80,000 stations in public places, far fewer than the 250,000 it wants by 2025. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents many major automakers, signaled the lack of infrastructure, access to materials needed to make batteries and the supply chain issues are among the challenges to meet the state timeline.

“These are complex, intertwined and global issues that are beyond the control of either[the California Air Resources Board]or the auto industry,” John Bozella, the group’s chairman, said in a statement.

Although the state makes up 10% of the U.S. auto market, it is home to 43% of the country’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 most ambitious in the world as it sets clear benchmarks for ramping up electric vehicle sales over the next 12 years. For example, by 2026, a 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 backed a plan in June to effectively ban the sale of gas and diesel cars in the 27-nation bloc by 2035, and Canada made the sale of zero-emission cars mandatory for the same year. China’s Hainan province said this week it will do the same by 2030.

In the US, Massachusetts, Washington and New York are among states that have set goals to transform their auto markets or have already committed to following California’s new rules.

California has historically received permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set its own exhaust emission regulations for automobiles, and 17 other states follow some or all of its policies.

The new electric vehicle rules also require federal approval, which is considered likely with President Joe Biden in the White House. However, a future Republican president could challenge California’s authority to set its own car standards, as the Trump administration did.

Indeed, the new commitment comes as California works to maintain reliable electricity while moving away from gas-fired power plants in favor of solar, wind and other cleaner energy sources. Earlier this year, top energy officials warned that the state could run out of power during the hottest days of summer, which happened briefly in August 2020.

That hasn’t happened yet this year. But Newsom is pushing to keep the state’s last remaining nuclear power plant open beyond its scheduled closure in 2025, and the state may turn to diesel generators or natural gas plants as backup when the grid is under pressure.

By adding more car chargers, more is demanded from the energy grid.

Ensuring access to charging stations is also key to ramping up electric vehicle sales. The infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year provides $5 billion for states to build every 50 miles (80 kilometers) along highways. Newsom, meanwhile, has pledged to spend billions to boost sales of zero-emission vehicles, including by adding chargers in low-income neighborhoods.

Driving an electric vehicle long distances, even in California, requires careful planning about where to stop and recharge, said Mary Nichols, former chair of the California Air Resources Board. The money from the state and federal government will help boost that infrastructure and make electric cars an easier option, she said.

“This is going to be a transformative process and the vehicle sales mandate is just one part of that,” she said.

Although hydrogen is a fuel option under the new regulations, fuel cell-powered cars have accounted for less than 1% of car sales in recent years.

Both the state and government have rebates of thousands of dollars to offset the cost of buying electric cars, and the rules have incentives for automakers to make used electric vehicles available to low- and middle-income people. In the past 12 years, California has provided more than $1 billion in rebates for the sale of 478,000 electric, plug-in or hybrid vehicles, according to the Air Board.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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