Aaron DiManna
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California Plans to Stop Selling Gas Vehicles by 2035

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A city highway timelapse photo
Photo: pxfuel via DCMA

It’s a well-known fact that California is quite possibly the most progressive state in America when it comes to environmental issues and emissions standards. That reputation is about to be indelibly etched into the public consciousness — and the automotive industry — as California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed an executive order declaring that the state will end the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035.

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What does that mean?

The news that America’s most populous state, the world’s fifth-largest economy, and what The Washington Post writers Dino Grandoni, Faiz Siddiqui, and Brady Dennis call “the state that created U.S. car culture” will soon bid adieu to internal combustion engines may initially come as a shock. However, there are a few significant factors to consider.

First, it’s important to understand that California is by no means outlawing the ownership or sale of gas-powered cars. If you already have a traditional car, you can keep driving it without worry. If you want to buy a gas-powered vehicle in California after 2035, dealerships will have plenty of used models available for purchase for the foreseeable future. The ultimate goal is to slowly phase out the sales of new fossil fuel-burning vehicles over the next 15 years.

Second, the executive order isn’t meant to bump EV sales, but rather to fuel innovation in environmentally-friendly vehicles. It specifically states that the California Air Resources Board is responsible for implementing regulations that guarantee all cars and trucks sold in California — starting in 2035 — must be either electric or “otherwise zero-emissions.”

Third, this isn’t the first time that California has led the nation in tackling the climate crisis, especially where vehicles are concerned. Most notably, it upheld its stringent emissions standards after the Trump administration gutted Obama-era regulations earlier this year.

Why now?

Some may see the move as drastic, Gov. Gavin Newsom sees it as a necessity to combat climate change and dampen the intensity of natural disasters. Following a streak of wildfires that filled the sky with smoke for days on end, Newsom said, “For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. You deserve to have a car that doesn’t give your kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air.”

Considering California’s economic clout, it’s possible that Newsom’s aggressive plan will motivate other states to follow suit. If even a few states hop onboard, the automotive industry may see its biggest shift in decades.

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