Can you still drive gas cars after 2030?
Ending the sale of gas cars by 2030 was a radical idea. What changed?
The adoption of electric cars is speeding up, even as it runs into obstacles like backlogged supply chains and a lack of charging infrastructure. Consider, for example, that the majority of the world’s electric vehicles on the road today were added in the last year and a half. “It’s not really a question of, at this point, where’s the market going?” said David Reichmuth, a senior engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ clean transportation program. “It is more of a question of how fast we can get there.”
1. The growing market
In the first three months of 2022, the only automakers to report sales gains in the U.S. were all-electric companies like Tesla and Polestar, as well as the outlier BMW. Most automakers saw sales drop by double digits while Tesla’s sales rose 88 percent compared to the same quarter last year. Car companies are looking at Tesla, the world’s 6th most valuable company on the market at a recent $902 billion, and want to show investors that “if they’re not there yet, they have a plan to get there,” Reichmuth said. Companies that have started producing EV models, like Ford, have found they can’t build them fast enough to keep up with demand. “The auto companies are seeing that electric is the future,” Reichmuth said. Many are promising to sell only electric options in the coming years, with Jaguar aiming for 2025, Volvo for 2030, and General Motors for 2035. But some of the biggest companies, like Toyota and Volkswagen, are still dragging their heels.
2. Lower costs
Electric vehicles require energy-dense, rechargeable batteries — technology that used to be very expensive. Since 2010, prices for lithium-ion battery packs have sunk 89 percent, though a shortage of key ingredients like cobalt and lithium carbonate are nudging them back up. Electric cars still tend to be more expensive than gas cars upfront: An average EV model runs about $70,000, compared to $48,000 for a gas car. That high price is thanks in part to a trend toward flashy, high-end models like Tesla’s Model 3, but electric cars are usually cheaper over the long term. That’s something Americans may be keeping in mind as they’ve watched gas prices climb to $5 or $6 a gallon in parts of the country this spring.
3. The global picture
Electric cars are no longer niche products for liberal-minded Americans. China and Europe are leading the switch to electric cars, accounting for 85 percent of worldwide EV sales last year. Some 3.2 million were sold in China and 2.3 million in Europe, compared to only 535,000 in the United States. “Automakers, I think, are realizing that to be globally competitive they just have to have a very strong EV presence, otherwise they’re gonna miss out,” said Janelle London, the co-executive director of Coltura. Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, among other countries, aim to ban new fossil fuel-powered cars by 2030, on the same timeline as Washington state.
4. More regulation
In April, the California Air Resources Board introduced a plan to ban the sale of new gas-fueled cars by 2035, following an executive order from Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020. “There’s broad consensus that phase-out policies, both in Europe and even what’s going on like California and Washington and all that effort, have actually been decisive in getting automakers to shift,” Metz said. “Without that, it wouldn’t have happened. Concerns about climate change and air pollution are driving the policies to phase out gasoline. Transportation accounts for about 30 percent of the country’s emissions, with the majority of that coming from gas-powered passenger vehicles. Gas cars are also a huge health hazard, spewing particulate matter and carbon monoxide out of tailpipes. Concentrations of toxic chemicals are even higher inside cars, where Americans get their biggest daily exposure to air pollution.
5. More choices
Ten years ago, there were just eight electric vehicle models to pick from in the United States, like the Tesla Model S or the Nissan Leaf. Over the course of 2022, the number of models is jumping from 62 to 100. “A lot of people are waiting for the type of model that they are looking for,” said Larry Chretien, the executive director at the Green Energy Consumers Alliance. “You know, not everyone wants a small car. Not everyone can afford a Tesla. They’re looking for something that’s bigger than small and moderately priced. And that’s all coming.” The electric version of the Ford F-150, the top-selling vehicle in the U.S., just arrived last week, with a starting price around $40,000 and the promise of going 230 miles on one charge. Ford had to cap the waitlist at 200,000 in December, which translates to a three-year backlog. “People are not going to care if they’re red state, blue state — they’re going to want this thing,” London said.
6. More visibility
It takes time to get used to new technology. With more electric vehicles on the road, and with chargers to support them popping up at grocery stores and office buildings, it’s easier for more people to imagine sitting behind the wheel of an EV themselves. “Your neighbor might have an electric vehicle, or somebody on your kid’s soccer team, or at school, at work,” Reichmuth said. “That makes it easier for people to get comfortable with a switch to an electric vehicle.”
7. A changing public attitude
Americans are beginning to grasp that the era of gas cars may be coming to an end. A poll commissioned by Coltura last October found that 55 percent of voters in the U.S. supported requiring new cars to be electric by 2030. And about half of people who were thinking of buying a car in the next five years said it was “somewhat” or “very” likely that they’d go electric. This was even before the onslaught of EV commercials during the Super Bowl this year. “People are understanding that it’s coming fast,” Chretien said. “They’re getting ready. They anticipate that they will be able to buy an electric car soon.” Of course, the shift to electric vehicles won’t be smooth. There are a number of barriers in the way, like an uncertain policy landscape and a lack of charging infrastructure. Macri says her constituents are concerned about the number of charging spots available at their apartment buildings or out on the street where they park their cars. Washington state’s newly approved transportation package directs the state to create a road map by the end of the year to figure out how to reach the 2030 target. “We’re not thinking about getting there until somebody says you have to, and then you start to figure out, ‘Oh, these are the five steps you need to do to get there,’” Macri said. Looking back, she observed just how much had changed. A few years ago, ending sales of gas-powered cars by 2030 “was truly seen as very, very, radical,” Macri said. “We’ve just seen a huge amount of progress.”
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California’s 2035 gas car ban finalized – why it’s huge, even if we want sooner
The California Air Resources Board voted unanimously today to implement perhaps its most significant regulation ever – the Advanced Clean Cars II regulation, which officially implements a planned ban on new gas car sales beginning in 2035 and could shake up the entire US auto market.
The ban was first ordered in 2020 by Governor Gavin Newsom, who directed state agencies to draw up a plan. After two years and much work and public comment, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has now adopted the plan, which California calls the “first-in-the-world” of its kind.
While other governments around the world have set targets for EV adoption and targeted all-EV sales in the 2030-2040 range (with some before 2030), none are nearly as comprehensive as California’s new rules. The regulations could serve as a model not just in the US, but for world governments to look at when considering similar measures.
What California’s 2035 gas car ban does
The specifics of the Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC2) regulation include not just a ban on the sale of new gas-powered light duty passenger cars, trucks and SUVs after 2035, but many other incentives and targets to ensure minimum standards and encourage both new and used electric vehicle sales. These include warranty, durability, serviceability, streamlined charging, and battery labeling requirements.
Here are some of the specifics:
- EVs must come with a charging cord.
- Adapters must be available for standardized public chargers (e.g., Tesla’s upcoming CCS adapter).
- Used vehicles must have battery health metrics so buyers know what they’re getting.
- Batteries must hold 70% of range for 10 years/150K miles (80% after 2030 model year)
- Warranties must guarantee 70% of battery capacity for 8 years/100K miles (75% in 2031 model year).
- EV repair information must be disclosed to independent repair shops.
But despite all of this, there will be some cars allowed with gas engines in them, in the form of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Up to 20% of a manufacturer’s vehicles can be PHEVs, so potentially, up to 20% of cars in 2035 could still use gasoline.
However, those PHEVs will be regulated to certain minimum standards, such as a 50-mile all-electric range – which few PHEVs on the road today currently get. EVs will also have a minimum battery size of 150 miles.
The regulation phases in gradually over the next decade. Starting in 2026, 35% of new cars must be all-electric, rising in a near-linear fashion to 100% in 2035.
In the time between 2026 and 2035, combustion-engine vehicles will also be more stringently regulated by California’s low-emission vehicle (LEV) rules.
The specifics of the accounting for these metrics lie in a redesigned credit system, which CARB are now calling “values.” If automakers fail to comply with the minimum number of “values” for any given year, a penalty of up to $20K per vehicle can be assessed.
There are also environmental justice components to the regulation, adding targeted help to communities that are most affected by pollution. These include financial incentives that can greatly reduce the price of EVs for low-income buyers (above and beyond the federal EV incentive).
In total, CARB expects that the ACC2 regulation will cut auto emissions by 50% from 2026-2040 when compared to the baseline case, the equivalent of almost a billion barrels of petroleum going un-burned. It will result in far fewer smog-forming emissions and avoid $13 billion in health costs in the state, including avoiding thousands of cardiopulmonary deaths, hospital admissions, and emergency room visits.
Why it’s a huge deal – not just for California
It’s not a surprise to see a big move like this coming out of California. The state dominates US EV registrations – last year, 38% of the country’s EV sales were in California, which bought about six times as many EVs as the next-highest state (Florida).
But this regulation isn’t just relevant to California – it will affect other states, and could serve as an example for the world.
The direct mechanism through which CARB’s measures affect other states is through “Section 177.” Section 177 of the Clean Air Act allows California to set its own emission standards stronger than the federal government, and further allows other states to adopt those same standards.
Currently there are 15 “CARB states” that have adopted CA’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, and two more that accept California’s Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) regulations. Together, those 15 states plus California make up around 40% of the US car market.
Each state will have to go through their own process to adopt these new ACC2 regulations, but it is likely they will do so (NY and MA have already adopted laws with similar intent, and WA did as well with a further 2030 “stretch goal”).
We spoke with Elaine O’Grady, policy director for NESCAUM, an organization that coordinates air quality efforts for Northeast states. Seven of the eight states covered by NESCAUM are CARB states, and O’Grady was confident that these states would adopt California’s regulations.
So if automakers want to sell cars in the US, they’ll have to prepare for California’s rules, which will reach far beyond the borders of California. And since California’s rules are stronger and it’s easier to address one set of regulations than multiple, it’s often easier for automakers to just make cars for the strongest relevant set of regulations and sell them everywhere.
California’s gas car ban may inspire federal action
This is why the emissions fight between California and the EPA was important. Originally, California set strong standards, and then those standards were harmonized with federal standards for the first time under Obama’s fuel efficiency plan in 2012.
Later, in 2018, the now-disgraced EPA administrator Scott Pruitt reversed those national standards after much automaker lobbying. This threatened to bring back a “split market” between CARB states and the rest of the country (which the automakers regretted). Eventually after much legal action, California prevailed (which we predicted – though Toyota seems to have only got the memo yesterday).
California’s victory over the federal government showed how important CARB can be in terms of auto regulations. And the fact that CARB’s regulations were largely adopted by the federal government under Obama – when current President Biden was vice president – shows us a prelude of what might happen in the coming months and years.
Next year, the EPA is expected to adopt new car regulations. It stands to reason that its decision-making might be influenced by the fact that 40% of the US auto market has already committed to electric vehicles. While the US government has not yet thrown its support behind California’s 2035 gas car ban, it did just pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which focused heavily on EV incentives and reformed the EV tax credit. And Biden has signed an executive order targeting 50% EV sales by 2030, not too far behind California’s 68%-by-2030 plan.
So given the Biden administration’s focus on EVs and past EPA actions, we could see some parts of this regulation making their way into the federal register.
Electrek’s Take: But why not sooner?
In our original post on this, we asked: Why not sooner?
And we do stand by that – California seems like it could certainly do this sooner, and polls support it. A majority (55%) of US voters support all-EV sales by 2030, and that number is even higher in California and the CARB states, which tend to be ahead of the curve on environmental proposals and EV adoption. So the California 2035 gas car ban might even have support nationwide, per that poll.
In addition, we have argued that 2035 is the weakest target any manufacturer should consider implementing for full electrification of all new vehicles, based on car development and product life cycles.
Since it takes about seven years to bring a car to market, and each model lasts for about seven years on the market, then even if automakers do absolutely nothing except stop putting new gas cars into development – which is what they ought to be doing anyway given the way markets and regulations are heading – they will naturally hit 100% electric by 2035.
But, we also understand that California is a special case. There are some CARB states that will have to put in more effort to reach this goal, and some non-CARB states that would probably stubbornly refuse these goals as long as they can (though notably, in that poll about all-EV sales, even a plurality of Texans were onboard with a 2030 timeline).
And the ACC2 regulation has been referred to as “a floor, not a ceiling.” Some states can and likely will do better than these targets. The regulations just establish a baseline that everyone has to work toward, as a minimum.
The 150-mile minimum for ZEVs seems a little excessive – buyers who desire less range should be allowed that option. Plus, there are niche vehicles like the Arcimoto FUV, Meyers Manx 2.0, and even the USPS NGDV that get along fine with lower-than-150-mile range, so we hope there is some wiggle room there.
It is disappointing that up to 20% of cars will still potentially have a gas engine in them. We really don’t need to be building more gas engines that will continue burning gas for decades down the road. For the few who would desire gas engines, there will be used cars available, which should have been enough.
These PHEVs will at least have large enough batteries to make them useful, meaning that owners will likely plug them in, whereas many of the smaller-battery PHEVs often don’t get plugged in at all. Also, PHEVs are not taking off in popularity unlike the rest of the BEV market, so it seems likely that we’ll have less than 20% PHEVs come 2035 regardless.
And speaking of that – we think that in many states, these timelines will be shattered by consumer demand. 16% of California’s new cars already have a plug on them, and that number has been rising significantly every year. By 2026, 35% shouldn’t be a hard number to hit, at least in this state.
There may be states in the US that will lag behind this, but we think this goal is easily reachable in California, and probably several other CARB states. Once technology adoption starts to accelerate, it often happens far faster than people expect, and we seem to be in the midst of that inflection point now. We at Electrek have long argued that EVs will come faster than anyone thinks they will, and the pace of adoption just keeps accelerating. In a market that is rapidly shifting to electrification, why would shoppers want to put a gas-powered albatross around their neck in 2034, or even 2030?
We’ve seen this happen elsewhere as well – Norway had set a goal to reach 100% plug-in sales by 2025, but it’s already almost there, years ahead of time. Some manufacturers may even voluntarily end gas car sales earlier than 2025, as VW just announced they will. And most people outside of Norway still consider the EV market nascent – this transition will be even easier when more models are available and the market is more mature, which is happening every day now.
So perhaps this was a bit of a missed opportunity to make an even stronger regulation and to be unequivocally ahead of the rest of the world, but in doing so, California has provided a model that hopefully other world governments can follow without much modification. California is a trendsetter in more ways than one, and if this particular trend catches on as we think and hope it will, it could save a whole lot of misery for the world. So hear, hear – but let’s keep working to make it even better.
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More than one-third of US states may follow California and ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars. Here are the states that may be next.
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- California is expected to officially pass a rule banning the sale of new gas-powered cars and trucks by 2035 in the state.
- Due to a legal carve-out, more than one-third of US states may soon follow California’s lead.
- Here are the states that have signaled that they may soon ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles.
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California is expected on Thursday to officially ban the sale of gas-powered cars and trucks by 2035, and due to a legal technicality, more than one-third of US states may soon follow suit.
California historically leads the way regarding emissions due to a carve-out in the US Clean Air Act, according to Ethan Elkind, director of the Climate Program at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at UC Berkeley Law.
It is the only state in the US that can make emissions standard mandates beyond the federal government’s. But the law also permits other US states to adopt California’s standards without the federal government’s approval, Elkind said.
While California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced the state’s plan to phase out gas-powered cars two years ago, the state’s EPA is expected to vote on the measure on Thursday, making it official.
That means other states that have opted into California’s standards will officially have the ability to follow suit. So far, 17 states have signed on to follow California’s plan, though Elkind says there is no requirement for them to follow through.
California’s rule does not ban the sale of gas-powered cars on the used car market. «You’re not going to get fined if you drive a gas car after 2035. This is only about new car sales,» Elkind said.
However, he added that as more states adopt California’s measures, it could be a real «tipping point» for the electric vehicle industry.
«At some point, it’s going to be hard to find a gas station. But that is not going to happen overnight,» Elkind said.
Here are the states that have signed on to California’s vehicle standards and may be next to ban the sale of gas-powered cars.