California air regulators voted Thursday to approve stringent rules that would ban the sale of new gasoline cars by 2035 and set interim targets to phase the cars out.
The measure is a historic one in the US, and would be one of the first such bans worldwide. It has major implications for the US car market, given how large California’s economy is and that several states are expected to implement similar rules.
“This is monumental,” California Air Resources Board member Daniel Sperling 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.”
The board’s new rules would also set interim quotas for zero-emission vehicles, focusing on new models. Starting with 2026 models, 35% of new cars, SUVs and small pickups sold in California would be required to be zero-emission vehicles. That quota would increase each year and is expected to reach 51% of all new car sales in 2028, 68% in 2030 and 100% in 2035. The quotas also would allow 20% of zero-emission cars sold to be plug-in hybrids.
The rules would not impact used vehicles, allowing them to stay on the roads. The rules won’t be immediate, and will go into effect in 2026, Sperling said.
Multiple states are expected to follow suit. Already, 15 states including Colorado and Minnesota, as well as states on the Northeast and West Coast followed California’s previous zero-emission vehicle regulations.
California doesn’t have an exact count of how many of those states will adopt the 2035 ban on new gas vehicle sales but expects the “majority of the states to follow,” said Alex Stack, a spokesperson for California Gov. Gavin Newsom. New York, Oregon, Washington state and Rhode Island officials confirmed to CNN they plan to adopt California’s rule through their own rule-making process, while New Jersey and Maryland officials said they were reviewing California’s decision. Public comment in Washington state on a similar plan will start September 7.
“This is a critical milestone in our climate fight, which is why Washington is poised to institute these same requirements by the end of the year,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told CNN in a statement. “We look forward to partnering with other states and the Biden Administration to rapidly reduce the country’s primary source of greenhouse gas emissions.”
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos told CNN in a statement that California’s Thursday vote “unlocks New York’s ability to adopt the same regulation.”
Sperling said that if most of these states follow California’s lead, it could transform the US auto industry.
“This is a big part of the US market,” Sperling said. “Even if the feds don’t move on a regulatory perspective, a big chunk of the country will be moving forward.”
Sperling added the process of drafting the rules had received “surprisingly little debate” and pushback from car companies, a signal that companies themselves are embracing the move to zero-emission vehicles. Several companies including Ford and GM have already announced ambitious plans to move toward zero-emission cars, trucks and SUVs.
“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.”
Thursday’s vote is the culmination of years of work; in 2020, Newsom signed an executive order mandating that all vehicles sold in the state must be zero-emission by 2035.
“What these new standards do is set the roadmap to get there,” California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Thursday.
California also got a boost from the Biden administration, which reinstated California’s longtime ability to set its own vehicle emission standards earlier this year. The Trump administration rolled back the California waiver in 2019.