Morning traffic makes its way along a freeway in Los Angeles, California, September 19, 2019.
Mike Blake | Reuters
California’s clean-air regulators unveiled a plan this week that would ramp up the sale of electric and zero-emissions vehicles and eventually phase out new gasoline-fueled vehicles by 2035, in an aggressive effort to combat the state’s greenhouse gas pollution.
The proposal, if enacted by the California Air Resources Board, would require 35% of new passenger vehicle sales to be powered by batteries or hydrogen by 2026, and 100% of sales to be net-zero emissions less than a decade later. It also said that zero-emissions sales must increase to 68% in 2030.
Shifting the transportation sector to cleaner energy is a key component of California’s plan to combat climate change, as cars, trucks, and other vehicles represent roughly 40% of the state’s pollution.
Electric vehicle sales in the state rose to 12.4% of total sales last year, a jump from 7.8% during the year prior.
The board is expected to vote on the proposal in August. At least 15 states, including New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, have adopted California’s vehicle standards on prior clean-car rules.
The plan follows Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order in 2020 that called for phasing out cars with internal combustion engines within 15 years by requiring that all new vehicle sales produce zero emissions by 2035.
The rule would not ban people from owning gas vehicles or from selling them on the used market.
“With Californians still experiencing the harmful effects of smog-forming emissions and the effects of climate change, which are expected to worsen in the coming decades, adoption of the proposed ACC II regulation is critical and necessary,” the state plan said.
Newsom, when signing the executive order, said the plan could curb the state’s emissions from cars by more than 35%, and that zero-emission vehicles would “almost certainly” be cheaper than gas-powered vehicles by the time the regulations start.
“Building on 30 years of work to electrify light-duty vehicles in California, the market is clearly poised for massive transformation,” the plan said.
California, which is grappling with worsening wildfires and drought as temperatures rise, also has a goal to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2045.
Some environmental groups urged the board to set even tougher targets to move forward the transition to electric vehicles, arguing that the state should impose a rule to achieve 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030, five years earlier than the current proposal.
“Time is running out before the world as we know it disappears in the rear-view mirror,” Scott Hochberg, a transportation attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, said in a statement.
“To protect people and the planet, California has to free our streets from tailpipe pollution as fast as possible,” Hochberg said.