NEVADA — California is planning 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. car market by hastening the transition to more environmentally friendly vehicles.
The California Air Resources Board will vote on the policy on Thursday, which establishes the most aggressive roadmap in the country for transitioning away from gas-powered vehicles. It does not, however, eliminate such vehicles.
After 2035, people can continue to drive gas-powered vehicles and buy used ones. The plan also calls for plug-in hybrids that can run on both batteries and gas to account for one-fifth of sales after 2035.
However, it sets the stage for the end of the era of filling up at the local gas station. The transition from gas to electric vehicles will significantly reduce emissions and air pollutants. The transition may be difficult in areas of the state that are still dominated by oil; California remains the seventh-largest oil producing state, though output is declining as the state pursues its climate goals.
“The climate problem is manageable if we focus on the big, bold efforts required to stem the tide of carbon pollution,” Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom declared on Wednesday. He established the 2035 target two years ago, and regulators have spent the time since then working out the details of what Newsom described as “the action we must take if we’re serious about leaving this planet better off for future generations.”
There are practical obstacles to overcome in order to achieve the aim, most notably a sufficient supply of reliable power and charging stations. California currently has roughly 80,000 public-access stations, far short of the 250,000 it hopes to have by 2025. The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents many major automakers, cited a lack of infrastructure, access to materials needed to manufacture batteries, and supply chain concerns as obstacles to fulfilling the state’s deadline.
“These are complicated, intertwined, and global concerns much beyond the control of either (the California Air Resources Board) or the auto industry,” the group’s president, John Bozella, said in a statement.
Despite accounting for 10% of the US car market, the state is home to 43% of the country’s 2.6 million registered plug-in vehicles, according to the air board.
California climate authorities claim that the state’s new strategy will be the most ambitious in the world since it establishes specific objectives for increasing electric vehicle sales over the next 12 years. For example, by 2026, one-third of new cars sold must be electric. In the first three months of this year, around 16% of automobiles sold in California were electric.
The European Parliament passed a plan in June to effectively ban the sale of gas and diesel cars in the EU’s 27 member states by 2035, while Canada has required the sale of zero-emission vehicles by the same year. The Chinese province of Hainan announced last week that it would follow suit by 2030.
Massachusetts, Washington, and New York are among the states in the United States that have set goals to alter their auto markets or have already committed to implementing California’s new laws.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has historically granted California permission to set its own tailpipe emissions rules for cars, and 17 other states follow some or all of its policies.
The new electric vehicle regulations will also need federal approval, which is expected with President Joe Biden in the White House. However, a future Republican president, like the Trump administration, might challenge California’s right to set its own car standards.
Indeed, the new promise comes as California strives to retain reliable electricity while transitioning away from gas-fired power facilities in favor of solar, wind, and other cleaner forms of energy. Earlier this year, top energy authorities warned the state that it could run out of power during the hottest days of summer, which happened briefly in August 2020.
This has not yet occurred this year. However, Newsom is fighting to keep the state’s last nuclear plant operational beyond its scheduled closure in 2025, and the state may resort to diesel generators or natural gas facilities as a backup when the grid is stressed.
The addition of more auto chargers will increase demand on the electricity infrastructure.
Access to charging stations is also critical to increasing electric vehicle sales. Congress passed an infrastructure measure last year that includes $5 billion for states to build tolls every 50 miles (80 kilometers) along interstate routes. Meanwhile, Newsom has committed to invest billions of dollars to increase zero-emission vehicle sales, including by installing chargers in low-income districts.
Even in California, driving an electric vehicle long distances now necessitates careful preparation about where to stop and charge, according to Mary Nichols, former chair of the California Air Resources Board. She believes that funding from the state and federal governments will go a long way toward improving infrastructure and making electric vehicles more convenient.
“This is going to be a transformative process,” she added, “and the mandate for vehicle sales is only one component of it.”
Despite the fact that hydrogen is a fuel choice under the new laws, cars powered by fuel cells have accounted for fewer than 1% of car sales in recent years.
Both the state and the federal government offer thousands of dollars in rebates to reduce the cost of purchasing electric vehicles, and the laws encourage automakers to make used electric vehicles available to low- and middle-income people. According to the air board, California has provided more than $1 billion in subsidies for the sale of 478,000 electric, plug-in, or hybrid vehicles during the last 12 years.
Credits: Elko Daily
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