California Adopts Gasoline Powered Vehicle Ban Starting 2035

On August 25, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted a far-reaching plan to ban the sales of all new gasoline and diesel-powered cars, trucks and SUVs in the State by 2035.

The ambitious regulations will likely reverberate throughout the country, as other states adopt similar bans and auto manufacturers move forward with their own plans to phase out internal-combustion engine vehicles from their model lineups over the next two decades.

“Americans want choice over the type of vehicles they purchase and the last thing they need is a “California car” mandate. There are better ways to reduce emissions through cleaner greener liquid fuels coupled with new and improved internal combustion engines. Furthermore, the reality of the cost and availability of EVs is yet to be seen as states and the feds place fees on EVs to offset lost revenue from fuel taxes where in the past EVs enjoyed the roads for free. And don’t forget about the significant tax incentives which can’t last forever, and for many, are not sufficient to make an EV affordable as well as the increase in electric rates to support increased electric demand and infrastructure improvements,” said EMA President Rob Underwood.

California Ban on Gasoline Powered Vehicles

The California ban will be phased-in over 13 years. The State will require 35% of all new car sales to be electric or hydrogen by 2026 followed by 68% in 2030 and 100% by 2035. There are special rules for plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Not all gasoline-powered vehicles will be forced off the roads under the CARB regulations. The ban allows drivers to keep their current gasoline-powered vehicles on the road and permits the continued sale of used gasoline-powered vehicles throughout the State.

CARB estimates that its newly adopted regulations will avoid the equivalent of 915 million barrels of oil in greenhouse gas emissions reductions between 2026 and 2040.

States Set to Adopt the California Ban

Clean Air Act Section 177 allows other states to adopt California’s motor vehicle emission standards. Section 177 requires states that choose to do so must adopt emission standards identical to the California standards.

Currently, 17 states (New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, Virginia, and New Mexico) and the District of Columbia, representing 35.9 percent of all new vehicle sales sold in the U.S., have adopted California’s prior vehicle emission standards.

It is expected that these and other states will move quickly to adopt California’s electric vehicle mandate after California receives a Clean Air Act waiver from the U.S. EPA.

CARB staff acknowledged in the rulemaking documents that its ban on gasoline-powered cars by 2035 requires the Clean Air Act waiver from EPA and the State expects to receive it.

EMA Action

EMA has been actively engaged in the fight against banning gasoline powered vehicles since California Governor Gavin Newsom authorized the ban in a 2020 executive order.

On May 13, 2022, EMA filed a petition with a federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., asking the court to review the Biden Administration’s restoration of the Clean Air Act waiver allowing California to set its own air pollution standards.

That waiver was revoked by the Trump administration in 2019.

The EMA petition was filed to challenge the restoration of the waiver on various grounds, including that California does not require the more stringent standards to meet any extraordinary or compelling conditions that are unique to California as the Clean Air Act requires.

If the court overturns the waiver as requested by EMA, California is likely to lose the authority it claims to ban gasoline powered vehicles in the State.

If that happens, any state attempting to adopt the California ban will lose their authority to act as well.

Separate from the current court action, EMA will oppose California’s waiver request for gasoline-powered vehicle ban when it is submitted to EPA. If EPA does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to ban gasoline-powered vehicles, it is difficult to see how it can allow California to exercise such authority under the statute.

Challenges Likely to Slow Transition to Electric Vehicles

Even if the EMA petition in court is not successful, there are plenty of practical challenges expected to slow the transition to electric vehicles for years to come.

First, and foremost is the lack of investment in EV charging infrastructure across the United States.

California has only 80,000 of the 250,000 EV charging stations it needs to meet expected demand as the ban begins to phase in.

Despite the recent multibillion-dollar investment in new EV charging infrastructure by Congress, there will still be a significant shortage of charging stations nationwide once those funds are expended by the states.

Moreover, a major overhaul of the nation’s electric power plants and transmission grid must occur to meet the higher demand a transition to all electric vehicles will create.

Another challenge is the chronic shortage of EV models that consumers can afford even with new state and federal incentives for electric vehicle purchases.

The EV shortage is not expected to end anytime soon as materials needed to manufacture batteries are in critically short supply and the supply chains used to move them are disrupted.

Finally, most consumers remain skeptical that electric vehicles can match the performance standards and mileage range of gasoline powered vehicles.

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