The most populous state in the nation plans to outlaw the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by 2035, following the lead of France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and several other countries.
“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” says California Gov. Gavin Newsom who issued an executive order in late September directing the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to draft new rules. “For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe... Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air.”
Newsom and several climatologists have blamed global warming for extreme weather, including the wildfires ravaging much of Oregon and California in September and October.
CARB is arguably the most powerful regulatory body in the U.S., just behind the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For decades, CARB has set California fuel economy standards that are higher than the EPA’s, and more than a dozen states follow CARB’s rules. More than half of U.S. drivers are effectively subject to CARB’s mandates.
CARB sets those rules using a waiver from the EPA, however, President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed more lenient fuel economy mandates that call for eliminating California’s ability to set its own standards. California and other states are challenging Trump’s proposed rules in what is already a protracted legal fight.
CARB officials say banning gasoline-powered cars would cut greenhouse gas emissions 35% and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions 80%. Newsom’s order mandates zero-emissions cars but says commercial trucks should be fossil-fuel-free by 2045, where feasible.
The state’s auto dealers immediately questioned the feasibility of making consumer and commercial markets all electric within the next 15-to-25 years. Dealers note that while California leads the nation in EV sales, they make up less than 10% of overall sales in the state, and “adoption is limited to the wealthy.”
Advances in battery chemistries and power electronics are lowering EV costs, but those vehicles remain more expensive than gasoline-powered models, creating other barriers to the transition, dealers groups say.
Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association, notes Newsom’s order bypasses the state’s legislature, depriving interested parties from debating a massive policy change.
“While we support the state’s goals to combat climate change, there are many questions and factors that need to be thoughtfully considered and addressed before implementing such a mandate on consumers,” Maas says.
The move to ban gasoline-powered cars started in European cities where climate change and localized pollution were driving issues. In 2015, cities in The Netherlands announced bans by 2030, and the movement accelerated when Paris, France, announced a ban by 2025 the following year. Since then, more than a dozen countries have announced bans with most starting in 2030. Norway’s ban starts in 2025, and that Scandinavian nation has become a leading buyer of EVs since announcing a ban in 2017. https://ww2.arb.ca.gov