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California Governor Signs Executive Order Banning the Sale of New Combustion Engine Vehicles by 2035

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【Summary】California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring sales of all new passenger vehicles in the state to be zero-emission by 2035, as well as additional measures to eliminate harmful emissions from the transportation sector. The order will aggressively move the state away from its reliance on fossil fuels while creating jobs and spurring economic growth in the clean energy sector. It will also lead to cleaner air for millions of California residents.

Eric Walz    Sep 23, 2020 1:30 PM PT
California Governor Signs Executive Order Banning the Sale of New Combustion Engine Vehicles by 2035
Freeway traffic near Los Angeles on Aug 2, 2019. (Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

Over the years, the state of California has become a leader when its comes to reducing greenhouse gases in an effort to reduce air pollution. The progressive state already has the strictest emissions standards for motor vehicles on its roads, as well as the highest number of electric vehicle sales out of all 50 states in the U.S. Now California plans to ban the sale of combustion engine vehicles in an unprecedented move to reduce greenhouse gasses and fight climate change.

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order on Wednesday requiring sales of all new passenger vehicles in the state to be zero-emission by 2035, as well as additional measures to eliminate harmful emissions from the transportation sector. 

The order will aggressively move the state away from its reliance on fossil fuels while retaining and creating jobs and spurring economic growth in the clean energy sector. It will also lead to cleaner air for millions of residents. California is the most populous state in the U.S.

Following the order, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) will develop new regulations to mandate that 100% of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks are zero-emissions vehicles. For California, it's an ambitious target that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35%, including an 80% decrease in harmful oxides of nitrogen emissions from vehicles statewide. 

The transportation sector is responsible for more than half of all of California's carbon pollution, including 80% of smog-forming pollutants and 95% of toxic diesel emissions, the Governor's office said. 

"This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change," said Governor Newsom. "For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. Californians shouldn't have to worry if our cars are giving our kids asthma. Our cars shouldn't make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn't melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines."

The heavily populated Los Angeles Basin and Central Valley in Southern California experience some of the worst air quality in the country. For years, the smog produced by hundreds of thousands of motor vehicles often obscured the view of downtown Los Angeles skyline from surrounding communities.

The executive order also applies to heavily polluting diesel-powered trucks, although the timeline for trucks to be zero-emission extends out an additional decade to 2045 where feasible, the order states.

To ensure needed infrastructure to support zero-emission vehicles, the order requires state agencies to partner with the private sector to accelerate deployment of affordable fueling and EV charging locations. It also requires support of new and used zero-emission vehicle markets to provide better access to zero-emission vehicles for all Californians, including more affordable used EVs.

In February, California assembly members Kevin McCarty and David Chiu introduced a bill designed to speed up the approval process of companies seeking to build new EV charging infrastructure in the state.

The Bill titled  "Planning and zoning: electric vehicle charging stations: permit application: approval" is intended to streamline the time its takes to secure permits to build EV charging sites. However, the Bill failed passage in the Assembly Local Government Committee eariler this year.

Today's executive order will not prevent Californians from owning gasoline-powered cars or selling them on the used car market.

California Was an Early Leader in Reducing Pollution from Motor Vehicles

California's work to clean up its air pollution goes back decades. In 1966, California established the first tailpipe emissions standards in the nation. For years, vehicles sold in California were required to meet the state's more stringent emissions requirements, which exceeded even that of the EPA.

In Aug 1967, then California Governor and former President Ronald Regan approved the Mulford-Carrell Air Resources Act to create the California Air Resources Board (CARB), committing California to a unified, statewide approach to aggressively addressing the serious issue of air pollution in the state.

That same year, the Federal Air Quality Act was enacted, which allowed California to set its own stringent air quality rules due to the amount of cars on the road and population density that was much higher than other states.

However last September, the Trump administration escalated its vehicle emissions feud with California by threatening to withdraw billions of dollars in federal highway funds citing poor air quality in the state. The Trump administration also formally revoked California's decades-long authority to set its own automobile emission standards, which are the strictest in the U.S. 

In response, California and 22 other states filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the decision to revoke California's right to set its own emission rules on cars and light trucks. The cities of Los Angeles, New York and the District of Columbia, also joined in the lawsuit.

California is expecting that zero-emission vehicles will almost be much more affordable than they are now. The upfront cost of electric vehicles are projected to reach parity with gas-powered vehicles within a few years. In addition, the cost of ownership and maintenance is expected to be much less than driving a fossil fuel burning vehicle.

Today's executive order could also be a big boost for California-based electric automaker Tesla and the company's long-term future. Roughly 70% of all electric vehicles sold in California last year were Tesla models. 

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