WASHINGTON – California unveiled an aggressive plan on Wednesday to demand a steady increase in electric vehicle sales and zero emissions, the first step in enacting a nationwide first goal to ban new gasoline cars by 2035.
Under the proposed rule, issued by the California Air Resources Board, the state will require that 35 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in the state in 2026 be powered by batteries or hydrogen. Less than a decade later, the state expects 100 percent of all new car sales to be free of major fossil fuel emissions responsible for global warming.
It would mark a big leap. Currently, 12.4 percent of new vehicles sold in California are zero-emission, according to the board.
If the board completes the plan in August, it could set the bar for the country’s auto industry. California is the largest car market in the United States and the 10th largest in the world. In addition, 15 more states, including New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, have previously followed California’s movements in exhaust emissions and may adopt similar proposals.
A critical year for electric vehicles
The popularity of battery-powered cars is growing worldwide, although the general car market is stagnating.
“This is tremendously important,” said Daniel Sperling, a member of the California Air Board and director of the Davis Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California. He said the proposed rule, which he said he hopes to pass, sends a signal to the global car market.
“Other countries and other states are watching what California is doing,” he said. “And that will affect the whole world.”
The proposal comes as President Biden’s climate agenda is faltering. Mr Biden signed an executive order last year calling on the government to try to ensure that half of all vehicles sold in the United States are electric by 2030. Legislation that would help enable this transition by allocating billions of dollars in tax incentives for electric vehicles, however, it has stalled in the Senate. Meanwhile, under pressure to alleviate high gas prices, the president has urged oil companies to drill to find more oil.
Automakers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the proposed California rule. In a joint statement last year, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis, the car company formed this year following the merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot, announced their “shared aspiration” to achieve sales of 40 to 50 percent of electric vehicles nationwide by 2030.
But they need government support and a “full package of electrification policies” to translate the aspirations into action, they wrote.
Transportation is the main source of greenhouse gas and other pollutant emissions in California.
The proposed California standard launches an executive order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020. According to the plan, 35 percent of new cars and light trucks sold must be zero-emission by 2026. This will increase to 68 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035. The plan allows 20 percent of new sales to be plug-in hybrids.
According to California air pollution regulators, the rule will eliminate 384 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions between 2026 and 2040, more than the state issued by all sources in 2019.
“These emission reductions will help stabilize the climate and reduce the risk of severe drought and forest fires and their consequent pollution by fine particles,” the state plan says.
Environmental groups split on the plan. Don Anair, deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ clean transportation program, said the measure had improved from a previous draft. He called it the “most important climate decision” the California Air Resources Board will make this year.
But Scott Hochberg, a transportation attorney for the Center for Biodiversity, accused California of taking a “slow path” and, in a statement, called on the state to end the sale of gasoline vehicles five years earlier. , in 2030.
Mr. Sperling noted that there are still a number of challenges ahead, such as building charging stations for vehicles and persuading consumers to buy electric vehicles. He said the final 20-30% would be the hardest part of the transition and would most likely require new policies and incentives.
“We can’t get people vaccinated,” he said. “Why do we think we can get them to buy an electric car? That means we need to be creative in making these vehicles attractive and compelling to consumers, even beyond their inherent attributes. “