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Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Denys Nevozhai

You won’t be able to buy a new gas-powered car in California by 2035

The state approved a plan to reduce demand for fossil fuels.

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

UPDATE: The California Air Resources Board has formally approved the state’s plan to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035 (you’ll still be able to buy and sell them on the used market). The board voted on Thursday in favor of the drafted regulations, which will require auto manufacturers to step up their share of zero-emission vehicles in phases over the next decade; just over a third of new vehicles in 2026 will need to be electric, and that jumps up to half in 2028, following by a full 100% in 2035.

The regulations now head off to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which will need to approve them as a revision to California’s Clean Air Act waiver. This California carve out to the federal law, which allows the state to set its own, more stringent emissions standards, was stripped away during the Trump era but restored earlier this year under the Biden administration—soon after, 17 states sued the EPA to attempt to reverse the decision. While California’s rules aren’t directly imposed on the rest of the country, the state accounts for about 14% of all registered automobiles in the U.S., a large enough share that auto manufacturers produce a single, California-compliant model of each car, rather than CA and non-CA versions.

The California Air Resources Board expects that the new regulations will cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from passengers vehicles by more than 50% in 2040, as well as avoid $13 billion in pollution-caused health impacts. In order to help get there, the state will explore its options to lower electric car prices (particularly for those who can’t afford them) and increase used inventory.

Our original story from September 23, 2020 appears below.


You’ve probably been thinking a lot less about filling up your car with gas these past few months. Looking ahead—like over a decade ahead—you probably won’t be thinking about the gas pump at all.

Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order on Wednesday that requires all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. And by 2045, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (these are large pickup trucks and semis) should be zero-emissions “where feasible,” as well as drayage trucks (these are short-haul port trucks) by 2035.

To be clear, this order doesn’t prevent you from holding onto a gasoline-powered car that you already own, or one that you want to buy or sell on the used market—so combustion engine enthusiasts can breathe a sigh of relief.

According to an announcement tied to the order, transportation is responsible for over half of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, 80% of the state’s smog-forming pollution and 95% of its toxic diesel emissions (it also calls out L.A. for having some of the dirtiest air in the country, so yay us?).

Making a dent in those emissions will be a challenge, though, so the California Air Resources Board has now been tasked with developing regulations to make that 2035 goal a reality (and, presumably, figuring out ways to incentivize Californians to not just buy gas guzzlers from out of state). The order also calls for an end to new fracking permits by 2024, asks state agencies to focus on public transit projects and pedestrian safety, and sets goals of transitioning oil jobs to clean energy (and making sure that taxpayers aren’t on the hook for the costs of closing oil fields). If all goes according to plan, though, we could see a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 80% improvement in oxides of nitrogen emissions from cars statewide.

“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” said Newsom in a statement. “For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. Californians shouldn’t have to worry if our cars are giving our kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse—and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

In L.A. specifically, Mayor Eric Garcetti has already set a goal for the city to be carbon neutral by 2050. But whereas those targets are merely goals, Newsom’s executive order is a more formal mandate.

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