On Tuesday, state environmental officials in both California and Washington State announced that certain Chevrolet models, including the 2021 Chevrolet Camaro SS and ZL1, would be banned from any more orders due to failing to meet environmental regulations.
In California, the new variants of the Camaro failed to meet the state’s brake pad laws under the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). According to the California Motor Vehicle Brake Friction Material Law that was signed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010, cars with brake pads containing “more than trace amounts of copper, certain heavy metals, and asbestos” cannot be sold in the state. Updates in 2014 completely banned the use of heavy metals and asbestos in pads, with a ban on pads with 5% or more of copper coming into law on January 1, 2021. The law, which began its life as Senate Bill 346 in 2010 and was authored by then Senator Christine Kehoe, will also totally ban all copper in brakes by 2025.
Senator Kehoe, as well as Washington state lawmakers, had cited scientific studies showing that heavy metal and copper residue from brakes that reached roads would then be washed to the nearest large body of water. Fish, including many endangered trout and salmon, are susceptible to those metals and can be easily killed by too much in their system. The bans had been put in place largely as a protection for them.
While most 2021 model cars, including the base model Camaro, met the requirement, the Camaro SS and ZL1 variants have pads with more than 5% copper, and have become the first cars to face bans in California.
“Today, it’s only a few types of car,” noted Nathan Medina, an Oakland-based lawyer who has represented many dealerships in California and Illinois. “But these regulations are only going to get stricter, including that all-out ban in 2025. The U.S. auto industry isn’t doing so hot, and these regulations are costing automakers money by being unable to sell them and forcing them to spend more time figuring out ways to make them compliant. So far, it’s two types of high-end cars that need those kinds of brakes. But in the coming years, we could see a lot more types of cars failing to meet those higher and higher standards.”
“California has some of the strictest standards in the world and has fought federal governments over them. They’re going to keep them strict. And in the end, it’s the companies who have to spend the most to change a portion of their cars and make them specially updated for states like California or Washington. Especially with COVID now and people not buying cars as much, this just adds another pinch to them.”
More automotive legislation worries on the horizon
While California’s law will ban many more coming into the state for sale, existing 2021 models on lots can still be sold due to being grandfathered in. Chevrolet also announced on Wednesday that they will be making significant changes in the 2022 models will make them compliant in California and Washington.
“We will resume allowing customers in California and Washington state to order the Camaro SS, ZL1 and 1LE models in the 2022 model year when we introduce a new brake system that is compliant with the copper requirements,” said Chevrolet spokesman Kevin Kelly on Wednesday. “Customers can, however, purchase these models from available dealer stock in those states.”
Other car manufacturers with copper in their brakes are also expected to develop brakes with no copper in them before the looming 2025 no copper brake deadline. Car manufacturers are also very worried about the recent executive order by Governor Gavin Newsom that will stop the sale of non-emissions free vehicles in 2035, potentially, if left to become law, could lead to a huge automotive crunch in the state.