California May Ban Fossil Fuel Car Sales Sooner than Expected

Flickr / Twelvizm

The governor of California is considering an outright ban on the sale of combustion engine cars, inspired by China’s plan announced earlier this month that it will implement such a policy in the near future. The move would also replicate similar plans announced by the United Kingdom and France, both of which plan to end fossil fuel-powered car sales by 2040.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, told Bloomberg in a story Tuesday. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.”

The timeline for such a ban is unclear, but Nichols raised the prospect of a total ban as soon as 2030, just 13 years from now.

California has strict goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent from their levels in 1990 by the year 2050. A ban on traditional car sales would accelerate the process, but its timing would depend on a bunch of factors.

“There are people who believe, including who work for me, that you could stop all sales of new internal-combustion cars by 2030. Some people say 2035, some people say 2040,” she said. “It’s awfully hard to predict any of that with precision, but it doesn’t appear to be out of the question.”

A Tesla Model S electric vehicle.

Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

One of the major questions — especially for anyone thinking of buying a new car in the future — is how electric vehicle prices will change over the coming years. Federal tax credits worth up to $7,500 on new electric vehicles will phase out after a manufacturer reaches 200,000 sales. Electric vehicle sales slumped when the state of Georgia removed state-level incentives in 2015, and a similar slump from a nationwide withdrawal could change the effectiveness of an outright ban in the state.

In China, authorities have hailed the ban on fossil fuel-powered cars as a way to reduce pollution in major cities and accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles. China has set itself the ambitious goal of five million electric vehicles on the road by 2020. In Beijing, the city plans to replace all 67,000 gas-powered taxis with electric vehicles.

“These measures will promote profound changes in the environment and give momentum to China’s auto industry development,” Xin Guobin, China’s vice minister of industry and information technology, said in the policy’s announcement earlier this September. “Enterprises should strive to improve the level of energy saving for traditional cars, and vigorously develop new energy vehicles according to assessment requirements.”

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