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California Will Ban Gas-Powered Cars. Is Your State Next?

Where California goes, the rest of the country tends to follow. At least when it comes to automobiles.

Northbound and southbound traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, as seen from the Vista Point.
JC Shamrock/Moment/Getty Images

California regulators are charting a bold course in the fight against climate change. A vote is expected today to phase out and ultimately ban the sale of all new gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035. As the United States’ largest car market, California sets emissions standards that are followed by close to 20 other states. Experts expect most of those states to follow the Golden State’s lead, resulting in a new gas-powered car sales ban in about one-third of the country, according to the New York Times.

The California Air Resources Board will implement the plan over several years, with several quantifiable milestones along the way: that 35% of new passenger vehicles be emission-free by 2026 and 68% by 2030. The plan also allows one-fifth of vehicles to be gas/electric hybrids.

The ban will only cover new vehicles. Residents will still be allowed to drive gas-powered vehicles that were previously purchased and can still purchase used gas-powered vehicles. Governor Gavin Newsom called the plan “one of the most significant steps to the elimination of the tailpipe as we know it.”

While environmental advocates are elated, other industry sectors have raised concerns about the viability of the plan. “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,” John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, told the NYT, explaining that it would be “extremely challenging” for automakers to meet the needs of the state in the time allotted.

And then there’s the question of California’s power grid. Amid ongoing water shortages and the very real possibility of a dearth of hydroelectric power in the coming years, coupled with decades of intermittent brown- and black-outs across the state due to electricity shortages, the strain of a plethora of new electric vehicles (EVs) putting pressure on the grid could cause additional shortages.

Some critics have cited the high price tag of EVs as a drawback to the plan, but the announcement comes just a week after the Inflation Reduction Act was passed into law. The IRA provides significant tax benefits for those who purchase new EVs: a $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of approved new EVs and a $4,000 credit on used EVs. However, these tax credits are is set to phase out in 2032, before California’s plan is fully implemented.

"The climate crisis is solvable if we focus on the big, bold steps necessary to stem the tide of carbon pollution," Newsom said Wednesday, calling the plan "the action we must take if we're serious about leaving this planet better off for future generations."