California air regulators are expected Thursday to issue stringent rules to ban the sale of new gasoline cars by 2035 and set interim targets to phase the cars out.
Sperling added he was “99.9%” confident the measure would pass. If it does, it would be one of the first such bans worldwide. It also could have major implications for the US car market, given how large California’s economy is.
“This is monumental,” Sperling said. “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 also would 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, 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 and allow those vehicles to stay on the roads.
Sperling said the process of drafting the rules had received “surprisingly little debate” and push back 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.”
Other blue states have followed California’s lead on tighter vehicle emissions in the past; Sperling and other officials are watching to see if Northeast and Pacific Northwest states in particular follow suit with the latest move.
“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.”
Thursday’s vote is the culmination of years of work; in 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order mandating that all vehicles sold in the state must be zero emission by 2035.
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 had rolled back the California waiver in 2019.