California is phasing out gas-powered vehicles in fight against climate change

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California pledged Thursday to end the era of gas-powered cars, with air regulators adopting the world’s toughest rules for transitioning to zero-emission vehicles.

The decision of the California Air Resources Board making all new cars, vans and SUVs electric or hydrogen-powered by 2035 is likely to reshape the US auto market, which derives 10% of its sales from the nation’s most populous state.

But such a drastic transformation of what people drive will also require at least 15 times more vehicle chargers statewide, a more robust energy grid, and vehicles that people of all income levels can afford.

“It’s going to be very difficult to get to 100%,” said Daniel Sperling, board member and founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. “You can’t just wave your wand, you can’t just pass a bylaw – people actually have to buy them and use them.”

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom told state regulators two years ago to pass a ban on gas-powered cars by 2035, part of California’s suite of aggressive policies aimed at reducing pollution and tackling climate change. If the policy works as expected, California would cut vehicle emissions in half by 2040.

Other states are expected to follow, further accelerating the production of zero-emission vehicles.

Washington state and Massachusetts have already said they will follow California’s lead and many more are likely to do so – New York and Pennsylvania are among 17 states that have adopted some or all of the standards California tailpipe emissions that are more stringent than federal rules. The European Parliament in June backed a plan to effectively ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars in the 27-nation European Union by 2035, and Canada mandated the sale of zero-emission cars by the same year.

California policy does not prohibit gas-powered cars. After 2035, people can keep their existing car or buy a used one, and 20% of sales can be plug-in hybrids running on battery and gasoline. Although hydrogen is a fuel option under the new regulations, fuel cell-powered cars have accounted for less than 1% of car sales in recent years.

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Switching to gas will significantly reduce emissions and air pollutants. Transportation is the state’s largest source of emissions, accounting for about 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The air council is working on different regulations for motorcycles and large trucks.

California plans to power most of the economy with electricity, not fossil fuels, by 2045. A plan released by the Air Board earlier this year predicts demand for electricity will rise by 68%. Today, the state has approximately 80,000 public chargers. The California Energy Commission has predicted that number to rise to 1.2 million by 2030.

The commission says car charging will account for around 4% of energy by 2030 when usage is highest, typically during hot summer evenings. This is when California sometimes struggles to provide enough power because the amount of solar power decreases as the sun goes down. In August 2020, hundreds of thousands of people briefly lost power due to strong demand exceeding supply.

It hasn’t happened since and to make sure it doesn’t move forward, Newsom, a Democrat, is pushing to keep open the last nuclear power plant in the state beyond its planned closure in 2025 and the State could turn to diesel generators or natural gas plants as a backup when the electrical network is under severe strain.

More than a million people drive electric cars in California today and their charging habits vary, but most people end up charging their cars in the evening or at night, said Ram Rajagopal, associate professor of civil engineering and Environmental at Stanford University who studied car charging habits and energy grid needs.

If people’s charging habits stay the same, once 30 to 40 percent of cars are electric, the state will need to add more power capacity overnight to meet demand, he said. Regulations passed Thursday require 35% of vehicle sales to be electric by 2026, up from 16% currently

But if more people charged their cars during the day, that problem would be avoided, he said. Switching to daytime charging is “the best value you’ll get,” he said.

The state and federal government are spending billions to build more chargers along public roads, in apartment complexes and elsewhere to give people more charging options.

The oil industry thinks California is going too far. It’s the seventh-largest oil-producing state and shouldn’t frame its entire transportation strategy around a market for electric-powered vehicles, said Tanya DeRivi, vice president of climate policy for the Western States Petroleum Association. , an industrial group.

“California people should be able to choose vehicle technology, including electric vehicles, that best suits their needs based on availability, affordability and personal necessity,” she said.

Many automakers, like Kia, Ford and General Motors, are already on track to bring more electric cars to market, but some have warned that factors beyond their control, such as supply chain and materials issues, complicate the Californians’ goals.

“Automakers may have significant difficulty meeting this target given factors beyond the industry’s control,” Kia Corp.’s Laurie Holmes said. to the air council before its vote.

As requirements increase over time, automakers could be fined up to $20,000 for each vehicle sold that doesn’t meet the target, despite having time to work it out. comply if they miss the target in any given year.

The new rules approved by the Air Board state that vehicles must be able to travel 150 miles (241 kilometers) on a single charge. Federal and state rebates are also available for people who buy electric cars, and the new rules incentivize automakers to sell discounted electric cars to low-income buyers.

But some representatives of business groups and rural areas said they fear electric cars are too expensive or impractical.

“These regulations are a big step backwards for working families and small businesses,” said Gema Gonzalez Macias of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

Air board members said they are committed to closely monitoring fairness provisions in the rules to ensure all California residents have access.

“We won’t fail Californians, we won’t fail other states that want to follow these regulations,” said Tania Pacheco-Warner, board member and co-director of Central Valley Health Policy. Institute. at California State University, Fresno.

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