California and its Air Resources Board have long been perceived as leaders in the fight against climate change and especially in the adoption of electric cars.
But several other countries have since been more aggressive and announced upcoming bans on sales of new gas and diesel-powered cars.
Now California’s government is reportedly considering the same drastic initiative.
Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, confirmed Governor Jerry Brown’s interest in such a ban during an interview with Bloomberg last week.
France, the UK, and Scotland, all recently announced efforts to ban petrol and gas-powered cars in favor of electric vehicles, but it wasn’t after China announced that it is also considering the same initiative that Governor Brown reached out to Nichols:
“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” Nichols said, referring to China’s planned phase-out of fossil-fuel vehicle sales. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.”
To be clear, California already set the goal to cut carbon emissions by 80% of the 1990 levels by 2050, which would actually require replacing virtually all combustion by renewable energy in the state a decade ahead of the goal. But there’s no actual policy forcing that aside from the current ZEV mandate, which environmentalists already consider weak.
As for the timeline to enforce a ban, Nichols doesn’t seem confident about any specific timeline, but as soon as 2030 is not “out of the question”:
“There are people who believe, including who work for me, that you could stop all sales of new internal-combustion cars by 2030. Some people say 2035, some people say 2040,” she said. “It’s awfully hard to predict any of that with precision, but it doesn’t appear to be out of the question.”
There are just over 300,000 EVs on California roads today and the state is adding 2 million cars per year. An actual ban on gas and diesel-powered cars would be of such significance that it would likely have an impact on the entire auto industry.
As we previously reported when talking about those possible bans, we think those timelines for the end of new gas-powered cars are too conservative. Once all-electric powertrains, due to the falling cost of batteries, reach cost parity with internal combustion engines before accounting for cost of operation (gas and maintenance savings), there will be virtually no reason for buyers to want gas-powered cars over battery-powered cars.
At the rate battery costs are falling, it will happen soon (between 2020 and 2025) and the industry should transition their production capacity over the following 10 years.
Apparently, most automakers don’t agree with that timeline, but that’s what those bans are good for. They are sending a clear message to the auto industry that there’s a deadline on selling pollution-emitting products and they need to prepare for it.