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California Executive Order Requires Zero-Emissions Vehicles by 2035

California Executive Order Requires Zero-Emissions Vehicles by 2035
(Photo Credit: Wei Gao, Unsplash)

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that all sales of new passenger vehicles in the state must be zero-emission by 2035. The order sends a signal to automakers and intensifies California’s legal battle with the Trump administration over emissions standards.

Newsom’s order from Wednesday says, “It shall be a goal of the state that 100% of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks will be zero-emission by 2035.” He signed the order on the hood of a bright red electric Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV, the Desert Sun reported.

The governor released a statement saying that transportation accounts for more than 50% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. He added that the transportation sector is responsible for 80% of smog-forming pollution and 95% of toxic diesel emissions.

As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, “Under current regulations, the [California] Air Resources Board requires automakers to sell electric, fuel cell, and other zero-emission vehicles in increasing percentages through 2025.” The newspaper noted that electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles accounted for 7.6% of new car registrations in the state last year.

Additional goals specified by the executive order: that all medium- and heavy-duty vehicles be zero-emission by 2045 for all operations where feasible, and 2035 for drayage trucks. Off-road vehicles and equipment should also transition to 100% zero-emission “where feasible” in the state, the order said.

Newsom asks state agencies, working with the private sector, to accelerate the deployment of affordable fueling and charging options so that new zero-emission vehicles have infrastructure in place. Californians can still own gasoline-powered cars and sell them on the used car market, the governor clarified, but he wants to see broad accessibility to zero-emission vehicles in new and used zero-emission vehicle markets.

Legal Battle over Auto Emissions Continues

The legal fight between California and the Trump administration over auto emissions standards has divided automakers and created uncertainty in the industry. After talks between the sides broke down, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, and Honda reached a voluntary agreement on fuel efficiency standards with the California Air Resources Board in July 2019.

Last fall General Motors, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, several smaller automakers, and the Association of Global Automakers joined a lawsuit siding with the Trump administration that argued for clear national standards. When officials from the EPA and DOT tried to revoke California’s authority to set auto emissions standards under the Clean Air Act, California and about two dozen other states sued the administration.

Currently automakers remain at varying stages with their EV plans. The new California executive order could help accelerate electric vehicle production.

“The automotive industry was already on the road toward electrification as a long-term goal, but many automakers have been guilty of setting short-term targets for their electrification strategy that never came to fruition,” Jessica Caldwell, director of insights at Edmunds, told CNN Business. “This rule, if implemented, establishes a specific timeline that they’ll collectively need to adhere to. California is a major market that automakers desperately need to maintain sales within to ensure their own viability.”

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