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California urges EPA to pass ban on gas-powered new car sales by 2035


California is urging the Biden administration to approve its proposal that would require all new vehicles sold in the state by 2035 to be exclusively electric, hydrogen-powered or plug-in electric hybrids (PHEVs), according to a letter seen and reported on by Reuters.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved the plan in August, but it still needs the green light from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce its own vehicle emissions standards.

On Monday, CARB asked the EPA to approve a waiver under the Clean Air Act that would allow it to implement its new rules. Specifically, the rules mandate that PHEVs, EVs or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles make up 35% of new car sales by 2026, 68% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. The regulation would allow automakers to sell up to 20% of PHEVs by 2035, but they would need an all-electric range of at least 50 miles to qualify.

Crucially, the requirements do not ban internal combustion engine vehicles from the road, nor stop used car sales in the state. But the ultimate goal is to accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles.

California is already making some progress toward its goals. By 2022, nearly 19% of all new cars sold in the state were zero-emission vehicles, accounting for about 40% of all ZEVs sold in the US. The state also invests $2.9 billion to accelerate California’s electric vehicle charging and hydrogen refueling goals, and expects to receive $384 million of federal funding from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program to install charging stations.

Historically, the EPA has granted California such waivers, although conflicts have arisen in the past that have resulted in legal disputes. The Trump administration had tried to remove California’s authority to set its own strict exhaust and ZEV standards, but in March 2022 the EPA restored the state’s right to do so under the Clean Air Act. Automakers such as Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, BMW, Honda, Volvo and Toyota have supported the Biden administration’s efforts to restore California’s authority over its own skies.

Due to its large population and air quality concerns, the state of California has played a strong role in shaping environmental policy at the national level. CARB has a unique authority granted by the Clean Air Act to set stricter vehicle emission standards than the federal government. As a result, California often sets trends for other states to follow.

A month after CARB passed the ban on gas-powered vehicles, New York passed similar legislation. Earlier this month, Rhode Island joined Washington, Virginia, Vermont, Oregon, Massachusetts and at least seven others in passing California’s ZEV requirements.

CARB’s 60-page waiver request reviewed by Reuters says California’s new rules will cost the state $210.35 billion through 2040, but total benefits will be $301.41 billion.

The Biden administration has yet to confirm that a date has been set to phase out sales of gas-powered vehicles. An EPA spokesperson told Reuters the agency will follow an open public process when considering California’s request.

CARB did not respond in time to TechCrunch’s request to review the appeal or answer any questions.

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