Last week, California became the first state to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approving an ambitious phase-out plan which will require all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in California to be electric vehicles or other types of zero-emissions vehicles. Now, other states such as Washington, Massachusetts, or Virginia are discussing their intentions to follow in the Golden State’s footsteps and implement similar initiatives.
Recently, the federal Clean Air Act has allowed California to set more stringent greenhouse gas emissions standards than those currently implemented by the federal government, while offering the possibility of other states to set similar rules. About 16 states have opted to adopt California’s standards, meaning that a gas-powered car ban could apply to almost one third of the country’s auto market.
For instance, Washington started adopting California’s emissions standards in 2020 and has committed to reduce vehicle-related emissions by 68 percent by 2030. Other states, such as Massachusetts and Virginia, have also aligned their vehicle emission standards with those of California and plan to phase out gas-powered cars too.
Currently, electric vehicles account for about 5.6 percent sales in the United States – with a much higher percentage in California (16 percent), which is the largest automobile market in the country. Although automakers are generally supportive of the idea of producing and selling more electric vehicles, they have expressed skepticism that the ban on gas-powered cars could be implemented by 2035, due to the fact that there are not enough electric vehicle charging stations to accommodate a massive surge in demand, as well as the difficulty to get enough raw materials to make batteries for so many electric cars.
“These are complex, intertwined and global issues well beyond the control of either [California regulators] or the auto industry,” concluded John Bozzella, the president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation.