California buys more vehicles than any other state in the United States, a majority of which are powered by fossil fuels. The state just announced new regulations to gradually phase out sales of gasoline-powered vehicles, ahead of a total ban by 2035. It’s expected that other states and countries will enact similar laws to meet promised emissions targets.

The End Of The Road For Fossil Fuels

It’s ambitious, it’s innovative, it’s the action we must take if we’re serious about leaving this planet better off for future generations.

On Thursday, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved via unanimous vote a proposal which would require all cars sold in the state to emission-free by 2035. The new rule, called the Advanced Clean Cars II (CARB-AACII), targets all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in California, aiming to speed up production of cleaner vehicles and make good on Governor Gavin Newsom’s previous executive order to require all new passenger vehicles sold in the state to be zero emission from 2035 and beyond. In a statement regarding the new CARB regulations, Gov. Newsom noted that “it’s ambitious, it’s innovative, it’s the action we must take if we’re serious about leaving this planet better off for future generations.”

The new regulations will come into effect by 2026, and begin the transition away from sales of fossil fuel powered cars. Beginning in the first year, zero and low-emission vehicles will account for 35% of all new vehicle sales, ramping up over the next 13 years to account for 100% of the market. Currently, sales of new zero-emission and hybrid vehicles stands at 16% – less than half of the proposed first year target, though the highest in the US. Plug-in hybrids which run on a combination of batteries and gas will still be sold, though they will be restricted to one-fifth of new car sales from 2035. Existing gas-powered vehicles can remain on the road and also be sold on the second-hand market without penalty after the rules take effect.

Electric Ripple Effects

The decision to enforce the gradual phase-out of internal combustion engine vehicles in California is monumental. Not only is it the most populous state in the US, it is also home to one of the largest markets for car sales in the world, with close to 30 million registered cars and trucks and adding nearly 2 million new vehicles to the road just last year. The need for these regulations is clear, as transportation has long been identified as the largest source of greenhouse gases in the US and California itself has a noted history with air pollution. It will be interesting to see how the new rules interplay with the Biden administration’s recently announced Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to incentivise the purchase of electric vehicles through tax credits and domestic production. The success of this decision will no doubt influence the adoption of similar rules for other US states, as well as international uptake. Already environmental lawmakers in Los Angeles and New York state are considering following suit and earlier this year the European Union voted to ban the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars and vans from 2035, following the same green trajectory.