The California Air Resources Board introduced a new zero-emission vehicle regulation proposal late on Tuesday, which, if passed, would greatly increase the rate of new zero-emissions vehicle sale minimums to 35% by 2026, up to 100% by 2035.
2020 data showed that only 2% of all cars in California are zero emission.
According to the proposed Advanced Clean Cars II regulations, 35% of all new vehicles sold in California in 2026 must be zero-emission, which includes those that are electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen-powered. The rate would then be increased every year, and by 2028 reaching 51% of all new vehicle sales, 68% in 2030, and finally 100% figure previously set by Governor Gavin Newsom in an Executive Order in 2035.
Despite the more set timeline proposal for new cars, older and pre-owned cars are left out of the proposal, allowing them to continue to run on the road past 2035.
In recent years, the state’s more modest goals for zero emission vehicles sales have been met. California originally set a 2025 date to require 8% of all new car sales be electric or otherwise non-fossil fuel. According to the California Energy Commission (CEC) those goals have already been met, with 12% of all new car sales in 2021 being zero emission. However, 2020 data only showed that 2% of all cars in California are zero emission. That data, as well as a growing effort among government organizations and regulators to go after climate change and reduce emissions to improve air quality in the state, pushed CARB to propose the new regulations on Tuesday.
“This is a hugely important inflection point. This rule finally, definitively puts us on the path to 100% zero-emission vehicles,” said CARB board member Daniel Sperling in a statement on Tuesday.
Regulators have addressed the many major roadblocks for adoption, with a major one being a lack of charging stations. As of 2022, there are just over 70,000 charging stations in California, not including at-home plug in options. Currently the CEC has a goal of 200,000 charging stations in the state by 2025, with increased CEC infrastructure funding, budget funds increased by Governor Newsom for stations, and numerous bills in the Assembly and Senate coming up in the last few years to accelerate this goal. The rate would have to increase significantly however to compete against the over 8,000 gas stations in California that offer a refueling of only a few minutes compared to electric vehicles that can take between 8 and 10 hours to get a full charge. It will also need to grow quickly to reach the 1.2 million needed in 2030 for the projected 8 million zero emission vehicles on the road at the beginning of the next decade.
Multiple issues with the CARB proposal
Auto manufacturers noted on Wednesday that while many car companies are currently ramping up hybrid and electric car production and demand, the lack of current infrastructure to support a large number of electric cars, as well as reluctance of other states, may not make the rates even remotely achievable. Other issues, like supply chain problems and the availability of necessary materials such as rare earth minerals for cars, may also slow down production and adoption.
“We are all committed to electrification and a net-zero carbon transportation future,” the Alliance for Automotive Innovation said in a statement on Wednesday. “But it’s critical for governments to ensure that everything from electric car infrastructure, demand, critical minerals and supply chain are in place. [CARB’s] proposed rules will be extremely challenging even in California and may not be achievable in other states.”
The cost of the new electric vehicles has also been a major sticking point, but CARB noted that in the coming years prices of these vehicles are expected to go down. However, one point that may play a major factor is out of state sales then registering them in-state.
“This is one that few people are talking about,” explained Joaquin, an auto trader who works in several Western and Southwestern states, to the Globe on Wednesday. “There is nothing to bar a Californian buying a used car past the 2035 model year in the future in, say, Arizona, they just switching the title over in another state. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but right now it’s doable, and the new rules don’t bar this from happening.”
“When the time comes, there will be a growing business of people in other states buying new cars that are gas powered, then selling them right back to people out of state, since they are then pre-owned. California would have to make the law specifically to ban all car past a model year from being gas-powered, and right now all it says is new car sales. This is a giant loophole that no one is seeing. If legislators in California don’t think people will do this because of the hassle, just look how many Californians go to Mexico or all the way to Nevada for cheaper gas. Look at how many people are now looking to coming to California to take advantage of less restrictive abortion laws. And this is just one loophole. I can’t begin to tell you how many more there are. And what CARB is trying to do will only hasten all of these side businesses and industries for Californians who don’t want to follow this.”
For the next month and a half, public comment on the proposal will be collected. A hearing on the proposal is currently set for June 9th, with a vote expected later in the summer.