California Gonna Make You Get An EV So You Can Write Surfin' Songs About It
Electric Cobra conversion, San Jose, 2019. Photo: Peter Thoeny, Creative Commons License 2.0

California regulators this week announced a plan to move the state even more quickly toward adoption of zero-emission vehicles, with a goal of phasing out all sales of gasoline fueled vehicles in the state by 2035. To get there, the plan, if adopted in August by the California Air Resources Board, would require 35 percent of new passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) be either electric or hydrogen powered by 2026, and to be 68 percent of new car sales by 2030.

This is a heckin' big deal, even beyond California, since as the Associated Press points out, California all on its own accounts for about 11 percent of new car sales, and at least 15 other states have in recent years adopted California's fuel-efficiency standards for cars sold in their states, too. Last year, as part of the Biden administration's reversal of Trump-era dirty energy policy, California regained the ability to set its own fuel mileage standards, which Trump had sought to eliminate because he loved gas guzzlers and hated California.

The new regulations would roughly triple the number of new EVs on California roads; currently, the state is already selling a lot of the things, with electric vehicles making up about 12 percent of last year's new vehicle sales, a big jump from just under eight percent in 2020. Manufacturers keep unveiling new EV models all the time, for more market segments, and where the hell are the fully electric minivans, please? All told, the AP says, about "1 million of the 26 million cars currently on California roads are zero-emission." Now it's just a matter of replacing the other 25 million in the next few decades, to meet the US goal of net zero carbon emissions by or before 2050.


The plan would not, CNBC reassures the nervous among us, outlaw the ownership of gas-powered vehicles, or their sale as used cars, at least not yet, Comrade. By the time electric vehicles are nearly universal, gasoline will likely be an expensive commodity for weirdo eccentric collectors of old cars anyway. Yes, yes, we'll absolutely need to 1) vastly improve electrified public transit, II) provide subsidies of some kind to help low-income folks buy an EV, C) build out networks of charging stations, and Four) expand clean electric generation and the grid to handle it. Then we'll address the hard stuff.

To help make EVs more practical, the AP notes, California has set a goal of building 250,000 charging stations statewide by 2025. Last year, the California Energy Commission approved $314 million in funding for charging stations, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked for even more funding for charging stations in this year's budget.

Getting cleaner cars on the road will, in scientific terms, do "a hell of a lot" to bring down California's greenhouse gas emissions:

Passenger vehicles contribute about a quarter of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions — more than any other single source, according to the air board. The program is one part of California’s efforts to drastically reduce carbon emissions. Between 2026 and 2040, state experts estimate the program would lower emissions by nearly 384 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. That’s a little less than all emissions across California’s economy in a single year.

California is far from going it alone here; as the AP points out, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last month signed into law a bill that would require all new vehicles sold in the state to be electric or zero-emissions by 2030, although regulators will need to work out the details of how to get there.

Some environmental groups are calling on California to take even more aggressive action to electrify the state's vehicles, like joining Washington in phasing out fossil fuel car sales by 2030. UC Davis prof Daniel Sperling, however, told the New York Times that the new standards would already have effects on automakers worldwide, and said it would be a challenge to get all the way to the ultimate goal of phasing out internal-combustion vehicles:

He said the final 20 to 30 percent would be the hardest part of the transition and would very likely require new policies and incentives.

“We can’t get people to get vaccinated,” he said. “Why do we think we can get them to buy an electric car? What that means is, we’re going to have to get creative about making these vehicles attractive and compelling to consumers even beyond and above its inherent attributes.”

Perhaps a long-term strategy could find ways to convince American wingnuts that driving an EV would really piss off liberals, somehow.

[NYT / AP / CNBC / Photo: Peter Thoeny, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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