The California Air Resources Board has issued a rule that will require all new cars sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035. Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the ban on new gas car sales in 2020, and directed state agencies to draw up a plan. Now, after diligent bureaucratic toil and reams of public comment, CARB has officially adopted the Advanced Clean Cars II regulation.
Many other governments around the world have set targets for phasing out oil-burners, most of them in the 2030-2040 timeframe, but none are as comprehensive as California’s new rules. As the New York Times reports, nine European countries have announced sunset dates for ICE vehicles, but none have instituted concrete mandates or regulations as California has done.
To EV advocates, a target date 13 years in the future may seem timid, but in fact the Advanced Clean Cars II regulation sets interim targets that will start to bite as early as 2026. In that year, 35% of new passenger vehicles sold in the state must be ZEVs, and the required percentage rises in a more-or-less linear fashion every year: 43% in 2027, 51% in 2028, etc.
ACC2 also includes many other incentives and targets to encourage EV sales and protect consumers. Some of the specific measures:
- EVs must have a minimum range of 150 miles.
- Up to 20% of an automaker’s vehicles can be PHEVs, but these must have a minimum electric range of 50 miles.
- Every EV model must include a charging cord, and adapters must be available for standard public chargers.
- Warranties must guarantee 70% of battery capacity for 8 years or 100,000 miles (75% in the 2031 model year).
- Battery health metrics must be developed for used vehicles, so buyers can see how much battery capacity they’re buying.
- EV repair information must be provided to independent repair shops.
- There are special financial incentives to reduce the price of EVs for low-income buyers.
- Automakers can be fined up to $20,000 for every car that falls short of production targets.
The sales targets could be amended in the future if the market doesn’t develop as expected, said Jennifer Gress, who leads CARB’s Sustainable Transportation Division.
Governor Newsom’s office also announced a number of investments intended to speed EV adoption, including $10 billion for vehicle incentives, charging infrastructure and public outreach over the next six years. The state already offers a $7,000 rebate (in addition to the federal $7,500 tax credit) for plug-in vehicle purchases, and a $9,500 incentive for low-income residents to trade in a legacy vehicle for an EV.
The usual chorus of boo-birds trotted out the usual objections to the new rule: “EVs cost more, they have limited range, public charging stinks.” Valid points, but is it logical to assume that technological progress is going to stop suddenly? Automakers that want to stay in business will have 13 years to fix these problems. “Where’s all the power going to come from?” It’s interesting that we’ve never heard this objection from any execs at utilities, many of which are strongly promoting EV adoption as they develop smart charging and V2G technologies.
John Bozzella, President of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, a reliable EV skeptic, told the Times that automakers would be happy to sell more EVs, but that California’s mandate would be “extremely challenging” to meet. “Whether or not these requirements are realistic or achievable is directly linked to external factors like inflation, charging and fuel infrastructure, supply chains, labor, critical mineral availability and pricing, and the ongoing semiconductor shortage.”
Several automakers said their strategies were aligned with California’s targets.
GM said it was still reviewing the rule, but pointed out that it has already set a goal of selling only electric vehicles by 2035. “General Motors and California have a shared vision of an all-electric future,” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Winter.
Ford’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Bob Holycross, noted that his company plans to invest over $50 billion in EVs and batteries by 2026, and said the rule would “set an example for the United States.”
A spokesman for Stellantis said the company intends to introduce 25 new electric models by 2030 to help support California’s goals.
Honda called California’s rule “an ambitious but important milestone,” but cautioned that reaching the goal would require several innovations, including building out domestic supply chains so that more vehicles could qualify for the federal tax credit.
Toyota didn’t comment directly on California’s new rule, but said this week that it acknowledged California’s “leadership in climate policies and its authority to set vehicle emissions standards under the Clean Air Act.”
In 2019, Toyota, along with GM and Fiat Chrysler, sided with the Trump administration in a legal battle that sought to revoke California’s right to set its own fuel economy standards.
That legal battle continues. The attorneys general of 17 Republican-led states have sued to revoke California’s Clean Air Act waiver, which would invalidate the state’s new policy. The lawsuit will be heard before the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled.
Currently there are 15 states that have adopted California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program. California will now send its final rule to the EPA for approval, and once this formality is accomplished, many of the other “clean air states” are expected to adopt new rules similar to ACC2. A few states, including New York, Washington and Massachusetts, already have similar legislation in the works.
Former EPA exec and eloquent EV expert Margo Oge explained the significance of ACC2 in an interview with NPR. “California has been known to be leading not just the US, but the whole world when it comes to environmental protection, but this is probably the most significant action the state has taken,” she said. “And if I dare to say, it’s probably the single most important action that the US is taking to address climate change. California represents something like 10% of cars sold in the US, and 17 states, I believe, have indicated that they will adopt the California program. That will be 40% of new car sales in the US, and that is pretty huge. This will drive the electric car market, it will drive innovation, and it clearly will transform the car industry altogether.”
“I believe that this is the first time that I have seen in [30 years] of being a formal regulator that the industry, the car manufacturers and the state of California, the federal government, Europe are on the same page. General Motors, Ford, Volvo, Daimler—they’re planning to stop selling new cars by 2035 that are fueled by gasoline and diesel. Some companies may complain. But overall, globally, there is over $500 billion that the industry is investing from now to 2026. So it’s doable.”