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California bans the sale of petrol-powered vehicles from 2035

Image credit: Foto 2131881 © Roza |

Under the new rules, 35 per cent of new vehicles sold in the state must be electric, hybrid or hydrogen-powered by 2026.

California has taken a "historic" step in the path towards tackling carbon emissions from automation and phasing out the sale of gasoline cars over the next 13 years in America’s largest auto market.

The rules issued by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) establish a clear roadmap to accelerate the introduction to the market of cleaner vehicles. The ban on petrol cars is expected to apply to 35 per cent of sales by 2026, 68 per cent by 2030 and finally reach 100 per cent in 2035. 

The announcement comes after California's Governor Gavin Newsom set a target in 2020 to speed up the shift away from fossil fuels, and it has been considered as one of the world’s most stringent pieces of regulation for transitioning to electric vehicles.

If successful, the new policy would allow California to cut emissions from vehicles in half by 2040, according to expert calculations.

“This is a historic moment for California, for our partner states, and for the world as we set forth this path toward a zero-emission future,” said Liane Randolph, CARB chair. 

In 2021, only 12 per cent of new cars sold in California were zero-emission, CARB said, though about 16 per cent of cars sold in the first three months of this year were electric. The new regulations are expected to boost this transition and will apply to all new cars, trucks and SUVs. However, they will not keep Californians from driving petrol-powered vehicles or buying used ones after 2035.

The move is being hailed as a major victory that could point the way forward for other states, and even countries. With a population of over 39m residents, California is the biggest US state by population, and larger than countries such as Australia, Canada, Peru, Portugal and Sweden. 

“This is monumental,” Daniel Sperling, a member of CARB, told CNN. “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.”

According to Sperling, the proposal would have faced “surprisingly little debate” and resistance from carmakers, which have ramped up production of electric vehicles. However, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation - which represents carmakers including General Motors, Volkswagen and Toyota - said more needed to be done to boost demand for electric vehicles. 

"What we've said to CARB and others is that getting more EVs on the road must go hand-in-hand with other policies that together will ultimately determine the success of this transition," the alliance's president and chief executive John Bozzella said.

Many car companies, like Kia, Ford and General Motors, are already on the path to making more electric cars available for sale. However, the Alliance stressed the ambitious nature of California's timeline, which it described as "challenging" due to the lack of charging infrastructure, access to materials needed for batteries and supply chain issues. 

Today, the state has about 80,000 public chargers, but the California Energy Commission has predicted that this number would need to jump to 1.2m by 2030 for the plan to be successful. 

“There are very real challenges in meeting consumer demand for affordability, ease of charging, while at the same time overcoming existing global supply chain disruptions and limited access to critical minerals,” added Subaru's David Barker. 

Currently, over 50 per cent of the estate of  California’s carbon pollution can be traced to the transportation sector, according to Newsom. The governor has hailed the plan as a crucial step towards addressing the climate emergency and protecting the lives of the millions of people that live in the state. 

According to a report released earlier this year by the American Lung Association, as many as 110,000 American lives could be saved by the transition to electric vehicles. 

“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” Newsom said back in 2020. “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.”

However, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers trade association has opposed the legislation, calling on President Biden and the Environmental Protection Agency to "reject California's request for a Clean Air Act waiver to proceed with this unlawful ban."

Despite this opposition, other states such as Washington and Massachusetts have already announced their intentions to follow California's example, with as many as 17 states having already adopted some or all of California's tailpipe emission standards. 

Internationally, the European Parliament and Canada have also backed a plan to effectively prohibit the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2035, with the UK expected to ban the sale of these types of vehicles by 2030. Earlier this week, Hainan island in the South China Sea stated its intention to become the first region in China to ban sales of petrol and diesel-powered cars. 

Renewable Power Generation: Meeting Net Zero Carbon takes place on 22 – 23 September 2022, delivering an inspiring programme from industry leaders on the road to net zero. Find out more at

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