California becomes first state to ban the sale of fossil-fuel burning cars and trucks

What first started in Europe in 2017 has now made its way to the U.S. In a move to accelerate the state’s efforts to combat global warming, California Governor Gavin Newsome announced through executive order that 100% of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks, off-road vehicles and equipment will be zero-emission by 2035. Additionally, 100% of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in the state will be zero-emission by 2045 for all operations where feasible and by 2035 for drayage trucks. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, seventeen countries including France, the U.K. and Germany have adopted goals to phase out internal combustion passenger cars.
Citing climate change as a crisis that is profoundly impacting California and affecting the health and safety of its residents, Newsome’s executive order requires the State to accelerate actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. To slow down fossil-fuel production even more, Newsome has called on the state Legislature to ban the use of hydraulic fracturing.
California is not alone in its ambitions. Voicing solidarity with California, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown stated, “I will be following the California requirement and looking into policies here in Oregon to accelerate transportation electrification”. Brown is chair of the Western Governors’ Association which includes governors from Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Governors from the above-mentioned have collectively agreed on creating an Intermountain West electric vehicle corridor to make it possible to drive an electric vehicle across major transportation corridors in the West.
The challenge for the automotive industry is to produce highly functional electrified vehicles by 2035 that will support replacing fossil-fuel vehicles and be affordable to the public. However, the list of things needing to happen for that to become a reality is nothing short of daunting. Below are some
top-of-the-list tasks facing the endeavor and the possibility of success.
1) Increase charging stations throughout the State’s infrastructure and in neighboring states. In view of the Western Governors’ Association pledge, this appears to be well on its way to becoming a reality.
2) Incentivize people to afford/purchase electric vehicles. The ability and desire amongst western states to dish out money when needed or generate money from tax revenue, bonds and hidden coffers has never been a roadblock. For those that will be unable to afford these vehicles, Newsome’s executive order also seeks to increase public transportation options that negate the need for vehicle ownership.
3) Switch to an alternate tax to replace tax revenue from fossil-fuels. A Vehicle Miles Tax (VMT) has been a desire of lawmakers for years, but who never felt the public support to be able to push it through. With a sizeable lead in polls, a presidential win for Biden combined with a generation of environmentally-conscious youth would almost guarantee a VMT in place of a fuel tax in the very near future.
4) Deal with the affects to the oil industry i.e., loss of jobs, loss of business and tax revenues. This is a big hit to the state. California is the 3rd largest oil-producing state (7.1%) with roughly 50,000 people directly employed in the petroleum sector. Support from contributing industries is mixed. A frustrated statement from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation reads “neither mandates nor bans build successful markets”. Automobile makers such as Ford Motor Company, Scion, Honda, Volvo, BMW and Volkswagon are touted by Newsome as being on-board with his order.
5) Convince the remaining states to adopt similar standards and beef-up their carbon-free infrastructure. Considering that 10 western states have signed a memorandum of understanding that pledges to build a West Coast Electric Highway, additional support is surely welcomed but not critical for success. All eyes around the country will be watching and waiting to see if longer battery ranges can be achieved or possibly regional electric highways will need to be built.
6) Upgrade the state’s electrical grid to accommodate more demand. For years, California residents have dealt with rolling electrical blackouts due to increasing demand and utility shutdowns that aim to reduce the likelihood of sparking wildfires. Additionally, some gas-fired power plants have retired due to state and environmental policies – not because of a lack of need. California has not successfully replaced the power generated by power plant closures. Accommodating more demand for electricity will likely require significant changes in the way electricity is generated, used and delivered throughout the state.