California, the biggest buyer of vehicles in the U.S., is banning sales of new gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and trucks in the state by 2035 with an executive order signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. It’s the single-most aggressive such action ever taken by any U.S. state or nation to fight carbon pollution that’s fueling higher temperatures and wildfires in California and persistent air-quality problems from automotive exhaust.
“To get to a carbon-free economy by 2045 we can’t get there without transportation,” Newsom said in a webcast today. “We are marking a new course … with a firm goal that by 2035 we will eliminate in the state of California sales of internal combustion engines.”
While new carbon-fueled vehicles can’t be purchased after the law takes effect, “you can keep your current car or buy a used car,” he said. “We’re not taking anything away.”
With a population of 40 million the state buys more than 10% of all new cars and trucks sold in the U.S. annually and is the country’s biggest market for electric vehicles, with about 750,000 on the road today. California also has 34 companies making or planning to produce electric vehicles, most notably Palo Alto-based Tesla (TSLA). The combined value of this company’s “half a trillion dollars,” Newsom said.
Transportation accounts for more than half of California’s carbon pollution, 80% percent of smog-forming pollution and 95% of harmful diesel emissions, Newsom’s office said in a statement. As a result, cities and towns in the Los Angeles region and the state’s Central Valley consistently have some of the worst air quality in the U.S.
“California's move to zero emissions is ambitious, but not surprising. Climate change is top of mind for many Californians who have increasingly been affected by the devastating wildfires that seem to have only worsened in recent years,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights. “This transition away from gas-powered vehicles is a major shift that won't miraculously happen on New Years Day in 2035. To help encourage consumer buy-in there will likely need to be financial incentives to get more people willing to go electric.”
Along with the rule of passenger vehicles, California’s Air Resources Board is to set regulations requiring medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to be zero emission by 2045, according to Newsom’s office. Drayage trucks, that haul cargo to and from the state’s ports, will need to be zero-emission by 2035.
California’s previous environmental and emissions rules have been fought by automakers, oil companies and the Trump Administration, and Newsom’s new order undoubtedly will face legal challenges. Nevertheless, six automakers that have previously agreed to stick with California’s tough automotive emissions rules are supporting the switch away from gasoline. They include Ford, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW and Volvo.
“We agree with Governor Newsom that it’s time to take urgent action to address climate change,” Ford said in a statement. Newsom signed his order on the hood of an electric Ford Mustang Mach-E on Wednesday. “Progress requires public-private partnerships, smart infrastructure and key resources that encourage consumers to invest in electrified products. We look forward to continuing to do our part to drive this transformation.”
Separately, Newsom also said his order includes a ban on fracking for oil and gas production in the state.
The announcement comes the same day Volkswagen unveiled pricing and an on-sale date for its battery-powered ID.4 hatchback and a day after Elon Musk touted Tesla’s plans for cheaper batteries that he says will lead to a $25,000 electric car within the next few years.