(CMR) California will ban the use of fuel-powered motor vehicles and require that by 2035 all new vehicles sold in the state must be powered by electricity or hydrogen.
According to Courthouse News Service, the decision was taken by a unanimous vote by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and is a groundbreaking step to transform the state's reliance on gas-burning vehicles that will have effects nationwide.
Vehicles are the highest contributor to pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions in California, causing about 80% of ozone precursor emissions and 50% of statewide greenhouse gas emissions, Courthouse News reported.
“The success of the program will depend on every car buyer embracing reduced emission vehicles, even the most reluctant,” Anna Wong of CARB's Sustainable Transportation and Communities division told the board Thursday.
She said in addition to cleaning the air of combustion pollution, the mandate offers the most significant benefits to communities along transportation corridors by reducing tailpipe and freeway emissions.
Jonathan Gilligan, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt University, said there could be significant economic and environmental benefits from a large-scale transition to electric vehicles. It could save consumers money thanks to lower fuel and maintenance costs while reducing pollution and saving thousands of lives lost each year from poor air quality.
“If California isn't able to fix the reliability problems with its electrical grid, and install charging facilities for all of the cars, consumers could face difficulties that would drive a public backlash against the regulations and end up making it more even difficult to achieve the goal of electrifying the vehicle fleet,” Gilligan said.
“Requiring everyone to move to electric cars will only work if people are easily able to buy those cars for affordable prices by 2035, and to get reliable and convenient access to charging when they need it.”
The transition is predicted to be difficult for regions of the state where oil is still a primary export, as California remains the seventh-largest oil-producing state. CARB estimates the regulation changes would create new cumulative costs to manufacturers of about $30 billion, or $2 billion per year, between 2026 and 2040.
However, the board believes consumers will save in the future, partly due to reduced costs from gasoline consumption — about $93 billion between 2026 to 2040. The report also pointed to thousands of new jobs being created, with a cumulative net benefit of about $91.1 billion to the state by 2040.
An infrastructure bill passed by Congress in 2021 provides $5 billion for states to place chargers every 50 miles along interstate highways. The Inflation Reduction Act also increases credits for green vehicles, Courthouse News stated. California must now receive a waiver under the Clean Air Act from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement the mandate, which the Biden administration has indicated it will approve.