California plans to require all new cars, trucks and SUVs to run on electricity or hydrogen by 2035 under a policy approved by regulators on Thursday that aims to drastically reduce carbon emissions and the eventual demise of gasoline-powered vehicles.
The California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) decision came two years after California Governor Gavin Newsom first ordered regulators to consider such a policy. If the goal is met, California would cut car emissions in half by 2040.
The move gives the most populous U.S. state the toughest regulations in the world for transitioning to electric vehicles. It should encourage other states to follow California’s lead and accelerate the production of zero-emission vehicles by automakers.
The policy has yet to be approved by the federal government, but it is seen as highly likely under the administration of US Democratic President Joe Biden.
“This is a historic moment for California, for our partner states, and for the world as we blaze this trail toward a zero-emissions future,” CARB chair Liane Randolph said in a public hearing ahead of the vote. .
Take the lead
The policy allows Californians to continue driving gasoline vehicles and buying used ones after 2035, but no new models would be sold in the state.
A fifth of automakers’ sales after 2035 could be plug-in hybrids, which run on batteries and gas, but the rest must be powered solely by electricity or hydrogen.
The European Parliament backed a plan in June to effectively ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars in the 27-nation European Union by 2035, and Canada has mandated the sale of zero-emission cars by the same year.
California climate officials say the state’s new policy is the most ambitious in the world, as it sets benchmarks for increased electric vehicle sales over the next 13 years.
The first mandatory threshold comes in 2026, when one-third of all vehicles sold in the state must be zero-emissions. Automakers could be fined US$20,000 per vehicle sold below that target.
About 16% of cars sold in California in the first three months of this year were electric.
Washington state and Massachusetts have already said they will follow California’s lead and many more are likely to do so – New York and Pennsylvania are among 17 states that have adopted some or all of the standards California exhaust emission standards that are stricter than federal rules.
The industry is worried
Kia Corp.’s Laurie Holmes said the company plans to spend US$25 billion by 2025 on electric vehicles and hopes to offer seven models by 2027. But she and several other automaker representatives said concerned about the state’s timeline, given factors such as supply chain challenges and the high cost of materials to build electric cars.
“Automakers may have significant difficulty achieving this goal, given factors beyond the industry’s control,” she said.
The switch from gasoline-powered to electric vehicles will significantly reduce emissions and air pollutants, but the transition will be painful for the state’s oil industry. California remains the seventh-largest oil-producing state, although its production is declining as it moves toward climate goals.
California shouldn’t frame its entire transportation strategy around a market for electric-powered vehicles, said Tanya DeRivi, vice president for climate policy at the Western States Petroleum Association, an oil industry group. .
“Californians should be able to choose vehicle technology, including electric vehicles, that best suits their needs based on availability, affordability and personal necessity,” she said.
California is the most populous US state, with approximately 39 million people. They represent 10% of the US auto market, but own 43% of the 2.6 million plug-in vehicles registered in the country, according to CARB.
About 16% of cars sold in California in the first three months of this year were electric; by 2026, the state wants the number to reach one-third.
Achieving the 100% target by 2035 will mean overcoming some very practical hurdles, including a sufficiently reliable power supply and charging stations. California now has about 80,000 stations in public places, well below the 250,000 it wants by 2025.
The Automotive Innovation Alliance, which represents many major automakers, pointed to lack of infrastructure, access to materials needed to make batteries and supply chain issues among the challenges for adhere to the state schedule.
The challenges of electricity
The new commitment comes as California strives 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.
It hasn’t happened yet this year. But Newsom, a Democrat, is pushing to keep the state’s last nuclear plant open beyond its scheduled shutdown in 2025, and the state could turn to diesel generators or natural gas plants as a backup. when the network is strained.
Adding car chargers will increase demand on the energy grid.
Ensuring access to charging stations is also key to increasing sales of electric vehicles. The infrastructure bill passed by the US Congress last year provides US$5 billion for states to build charging stations every 80 kilometers along interstate highways. Newsom, meanwhile, has pledged to spend billions to boost sales of zero-emission vehicles, including adding chargers in low-income neighborhoods.
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