California is poised to enact rules that halt sales of new petrol-powered vehicles by 2035, as the US state that has been a bellwether on environmental policy takes aim at its largest source of carbon emissions.
A carmaker trade group described the target as “extremely challenging”. Even as California leads the nation in electric vehicle sales, they still account for less than a fifth of the market there.
The rule expected to be passed on Thursday by the California Air Resources Board would mandate that starting in 2026, 35 per cent of the new vehicles sold in California must not emit tailpipe pollution. The target rises each year, hitting 68 per cent in 2030 and 100 per cent in 2035, with a small share allowed to be plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
“This is a really critical step forward and reaffirms California’s leadership role in reducing vehicle emissions,” said Alice Henderson, director of transportation and clean air policy at the Environmental Defense Fund.
The regulation formalises an executive order Governor Gavin Newsom issued nearly two years ago calling for the phased elimination of sales of new cars and trucks powered by petrol. By 2045, the state has separately committed to eliminating emissions from the power grid — the main source of energy for electric vehicles.
California has long been seen as a trailblazer on US environmental regulation, dating to rules it introduced in the 1960s that limited motor vehicle exhaust emissions. More than a dozen states follow its regulatory lead on air quality.
“This is a big deal,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, based in Chicago. “California’s clean car policies help drive the national, and to some degree, the global auto market.”
The state also represents about 12 per cent of the US market, with 1.9mn cars sold in 2021. Given its size, the push on zero-emission cars will pressure manufacturers to electrify their line-ups faster.
Carmakers are already investing billions to build out their EV offerings, taking advantage of consumer demand and federal incentives such as those expanded in a climate and tax bill passed by Congress this month.
However, John Bozzella, chief executive of the carmaker trade group Alliance for Automotive Innovation, called the California regulation “very aggressive”. Achieving the EV sales targets is linked to factors including inflation, charging and fuel infrastructure, supply chains, labour, critical mineral availability and pricing, and the semiconductor shortage, he said.
“These are complex, intertwined and global issues well beyond the control of either [the California Air Resources Board] or the auto industry,” Bozzella said.
Ford and GM said they were committed to a zero-emissions future. Bob Holycross, Ford’s chief sustainability officer, called the California regulation “a landmark standard”.
Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles, called the regulation an “extraordinary step” but said California would need to build up its charging infrastructure at an “aggressive pace” to power the electric vehicles that are expected to make up the bulk of new sales.
She also said it would pose a challenge for car manufacturers to supply enough EVs that customers will want to buy.
“It’s one thing for California to mandate a sales percentage of zero emission cars, and it’s another thing for car manufacturers to build, market and sell that number of cars,” Horowitz said. “Consumers have to want these cars, and I think they will — car companies are among the savviest marketers in the country.”
Read the full article here