California votes to ban sale of internal-combustion cars and light trucks by 2035

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It’s official. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) on Thursday voted on a rule to require all new cars, SUVs, and light trucks sold in the state from 2035 to be zero-emission vehicles.

The vote was in response to an executive order issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020, as part of his goals to combat climate change. According to the governor, transportation makes up 50% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“We can solve this climate crisis if we focus on the big, bold steps necessary to cut pollution,” Newsom said in a statement. “California now has a groundbreaking, world-leading plan to achieve 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035.”

Zero emissions means both battery- and fuel cell-electric vehicles, though not vehicles that can operate partially with zero emissions, like plug-in hybrids. The rule also doesn’t ban people from keeping their internal-combustion vehicles, or buying them used, beyond 2035.

California state capitol, Sacramento

California state capitol, Sacramento

There will be a gradual phase in of the ban over the coming years. The current targets are for 35% of sales to be zero-emission vehicles by 2026, 68% by 2030, and 100% by 2035. As announced in January, the state will also spend $10 billion to help accelerate the transition, including helping to make EVs more affordable for individuals on lower incomes, as well as building infrastructure to support EVs.

The move could reach farther than California as 11 states and the District of Columbia currently enforce CARB regulations and could follow suit. California also accounts for 11.7% of the U.S. light passenger vehicle market and the additional states bring that total to more than 30%.

Other countries are planning similar bans. The U.K. is looking at 2030 as the deadline, while Canada and the E.U. are also looking at 2035. The E.U. is just one vote away from passing its own ban.

The major automakers have generally been receptive of California’s decision. Ford’s chief sustainability officer, Bob Holycross, said in a statement the automaker is proud of its earlier efforts working with California for stronger emissions standards, and is committed to building a zero-emissions transportation future. General Motors has also previously stated it aims to eliminate emissions from its light-duty vehicles by 2035.

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