California this week set forth a new policy to ban the sale of new gas-powered automobiles by 2035, with other restrictions and goals set for the decade between now and then. By 2026, for example, 35 percent of all new vehicles sold will need to produce zero emissions; by 2030 that number jumps to 68 percent.
The set of policies, which was created by the California Air Resources Board, builds on California Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2020 executive order that sought to ban gas-guzzlers by 2035 as well. Newsom said in an interview that the new rule is “one of the most significant steps to the elimination of the tailpipe as we know it.”
California will now be home to both the largest automobile market in the U.S. and the most robust set of vehicle emissions rules. As The New York Times notes, California has long stood as a trendsetter in setting environmental goals — making it very likely other states will create similar goals in ditching the combustion engine sooner rather than later.
A promising start — The U.S. as a whole has been slow to adopt policies that encourage the transition to zero-emission vehicles. It wasn’t until about a year ago that the federal government had even set itself a goal around electric vehicle adoption at all — and even then that goal paled in contrast to those set by other countries. Aiming for 50 percent of all new car sales to be vehicles with zero emissions is pretty lax when compared to the U.K.’s goal, for example, which is to ban the sale of all new fossil fuel vehicles by 2030.
California’s new policy is particularly impressive when taken in this context. And it’s seeming like the state could really hit these goals, too — last year, 16 percent of new vehicles sold in California were classified as having zero emissions.
Tipping point — California is known for setting standards in environmental policy. This ambitious goal is one other states (and, if we’re really lucky, the federal government) will seek to emulate.
The policy comes at a time when the motivation to adopt an all-electric driving future is sorely needed. More than 5 percent of all new vehicle sales in the U.S. are now zero-emissions vehicles, a point experts say is a milestone for mass adoption. It’s more important than ever to keep that momentum strong. New tax credits on EV purchases, made law by the Inflation Reduction Act, will help both California and the larger U.S. keep moving away from gas for good.