States have begun to follow California's lead and ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035. Both Massachusetts and Washington have so-called trigger laws that require their states to ban sales if California does.
The new California law
Last week,California has passed rules banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035. The measure will not affect pre-ban sales of new gasoline-powered cars or post-ban sales of used gasoline-powered cars. It won't stop out-of-state residents from bringing their gas-powered cars with them when they move to California. The law likely won't stop Californians from buying new gas-powered cars in other states and naming them California.
But it's the most important step a state has taken to change the way Americans drive in response to climate change. California has almost twice as many registered vehicles as the second most populous state. The US Department of Energy now cites transportation as the largest source of atmospheric carbon in the country, surpassing even the electric industry.
Other states often follow California's example.
California also has a unique legal position that tends to give it leadership in issuance. Federal law gives California the right to set its own air quality standards independent of the standards set by the federal government.
Other states often follow California's lead. Seventeen states, accounting for about a third of auto sales, have historically adopted a version of California's stricter environmental standards.
Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington, D.C. Meet pre-ban California emissions standards for automobiles. So far, no one has announced bans on the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines.
Massachusetts, Washington have activation laws
Both Massachusetts and Washington pledged to follow California's lead even before the Golden State took the formal step of banning the sale of new gasoline-powered cars.
A 2020 Washington law linked that state's emissions regulations with those of California. Although more than a dozen states have taken similar steps, Washington is unusual. It stipulates that whenever California tightens regulations, Washington will follow suit.
Governor Jay Inslee tweeted Thursday: "We are ready to adopt California regulations by the end of this year."
And in Massachusetts, a recently passed bill regulating clean energy projects included a provision that if California banned the sale of new gasoline-powered cars, the East Coast state would do the same.
The law now requires the state Department of Environmental Protection to write regulations to implement the 2035 deadline.
The California measure is less aggressive than it seems
California has had the right to set its own pollution laws since the 1960s. But it has turned into political football in recent years. Former President Trump launched a legal battle during his tenure to stop him. Current President Biden reintroduced it at the beginning of his.
Automakers, unwilling to reshuffle their plans with each new presidential election, have begun setting their own deadlines for selling all or most electric models. Most have set deadlines similar to or more aggressive than California's.
General Motors, for example, promises to sell a mostly electric offer by 2035.Mercedes Benz for 2030.
The acceptance of electric cars is not linear. It speeds up.
Studies show thatPeople start buying electric cars faster when they see more of them on the road.. A recent study found that 5% is a critical tipping point:Once 5% of a country's new car sales are electric, adoption accelerates.
The United States hit the 5% mark earlier this year.
California is ahead of this curve. Statistics from the State Department of Motor Vehicles show that 8.1% of new vehicle sales in California in 2020 were electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. That number has nearly doubled in a year, reaching 16% last year.
Some experts still doubt the state can build the charging infrastructure in just 13 years to cope with the change.