Gas War: California Finalizes Combustion Ban Plan

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is supposed to vote on stricter rules that will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035 later today. But we already know what the results will be because the organization is about as mentally homogeneous as a eusocial insect colony and is strongly supported by the state government. So let’s cut to the chase and hear what California has to look forward to before seeing what kind of combustion bans are taking place in other parts of the world.

For starters, we need to clarify that it’s not the citizenry that will be voting whether or not to ban internal combustion vehicles by 2035. That privilege has been given to CARB members, who plan on setting interim quotas for zero-emission vehicles. Though that term is somewhat of a misnomer, as the construction of electric cars still produces a sizable amount of pollution. Charging likewise produces emissions. But they’re now stemming from nearby power stations, rather than vehicle exhausts.

The board’s proposal would effectively establish quotas for how many new vehicles sold inside California have to be electric or hydrogen-powered, starting with making them 35 percent of all new vehicles sold from the 2026 model year. The number goes up every year and is anticipated (by CARB) to reach over half of all new vehicle sales by 2028. Eventually, the goal is to get to 100 percent by 2035, leaving a little bit of wiggle room for plug-in hybrids. 

 “This is monumental,” CARB member Daniel Sperlingsaid told CNN earlier this week. “This is the most important thing that CARB has done in the last 30 years. It’s important not just for California, but it’s important for the country and the world.”

Sperling said the proposals saw “surprisingly little debate” and push back from car companies while being drafted. He took that as a sign that the industry was fully on board with the move to zero-emission vehicles, adding that several companies have already made formal announcements that they’ll eventually build nothing but EVs. 

 “The car companies see what’s happening in China, in Europe,” Sperling said. “Many of them have already made announcements about how they’re converting totally to electric vehicles.”

California has been beating this drum for a while and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order in 2020 mandating that all vehicles sold within the state be of the zero-emissions variety by 2035. This was after the region had become ground zero for opposing Donald Trump’s fueling rollback that would have scaled down the stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards established under the Obama administration. During that period, California had also launched numerous lawsuits to reinstate another legal decision flipped by Trump that granted it the ability to determine its own vehicle emission standards and attempted to recruit other blue states to adhere to its environmental policy, rather than the one presented by the federal government. Washington is now broadly aligned with the Golden State’s goals and the Biden administration reinstated California’s ability to make its own fueling rules upon taking office. 

However, none of this actually ensures that every new vehicle sold on the West Coast will be fully electric in the coming years. Internal combustion bans are all the rage among government officials and automotive executives. But the target has been moved back on numerous occasions. Several years ago, 2030 was frequently given as the collective target to kick gasoline-powered cars to the curb. Now it’s 2035. A few years from today, it may be 2040. While often ignored by bureaucrats, market conditions still play a factor here and EV price increases continue to outpace their combustion-reliant counterparts due to production issues and difficulties sourcing the raw materials needed for battery construction. 

Meanwhile, The Guardian recently reported that the customer-owned Bank Australia is planning to stop offering loans for “new fossil fuel cars” after 2025. A formal announcement is planned to take place at a national EV summit in Canberra on Friday, with the bank arguing that it needed to ensure its lending practices did not “lock our customers into higher carbon emissions and increasingly expensive running costs.”

Sasha Courville, the bank’s chief impact officer (something I’ve never heard of), told the outlet it would continue to fund loans for second-hand cars using internal combustion engines “as it recognized not everyone would be able to afford an EV in three years.”

She also claims it would send a message to consumers. That message is, “if you’re considering buying a new car you should think seriously about an electric vehicle, both for its impact on the climate and for its lifetime cost savings.”

“We’ve chosen 2025 because the change to electric vehicles needs to happen quickly and we believe it can with the right supporting policies in place to bring a greater range of more affordable electric vehicles to Australia,” Courville explained.

[Image: trekandshoot]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by  subscribing to our newsletter.

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
4 of 74 comments
  • DenverMike DenverMike on Aug 28, 2022

    Either way automakers and lawmakers alike are in for a hell of a shock. They’re not feeling the effects of my boycott on new vehicles, as well as my circle of friends, some of them multimillionaires. As it sits, new vehicles are a bad idea, too many better places to waste a ton of cash and much better choices.

    If you’re an investor in the industry itself, two words, auto aftermarket.

    • See 1 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Aug 29, 2022

      It’s cute how automakers and industry experts won’t acknowledge the pink elephant in the room. Not publicly anyway. The revolt started about a decade ago and will explode once new ICE vehicles start getting banned. If infrastructure rises to the challenge, it’ll be from lack of EV acceptance.

      But no doubt Chinese and other origin market EVs will flood the US and NA, including more US startups, since autos will just be big laptops on wheels, bought off of Amazon or your cellular provider.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Aug 29, 2022

    Well I just finished mowing my lawn with the electric mower. Three battery swaps and now my hands smell like electricity. 😉

  • Namesakeone Since I include SUVs and minivans as trucks, I really cannot think of a brand that is truly truckless. MG maybe?
  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.
  • ToolGuy Lose a couple of cylinders, put the rest in a straight line and add a couple of turbos. Trust me.