Sacramento, California – The most populous region in the United States plans to outlaw sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by 2035 and strive to reach that goal for commercial trucks by 2045, following the lead of France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and several other countries that are in the process of shifting to only allowing sales of zero-emissions vehicles such as electric vehicles (EVs) and hydrogen fuel cell cars.
“This is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said after issuing an executive order directing the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to draft new rules. “For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. Californians shouldn’t have to worry if our cars are giving our kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”
Newsom and several climatologists have blamed global warming for extreme weather, including the wildfires ravaging much of Oregon and California this month.
CARB is arguably the most powerful regulatory body in the U.S., just behind the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Through CARB, the state has for decades set higher fuel economy standards than the EPA, and more than a dozen states follow CARB’s rules, making more than half of U.S. drivers subject to its rules.
The state agency sets those rules using a waiver from the EPA, allowing it to set higher standards. President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed more lenient fuel economy rules that call for eliminating the California waiver. The state is challenging those rules in what is already a protracted legal fight.
CARB officials say banning gasoline-powered cars would cut greenhouse gas emissions 35% and reduce nitrogen oxide emissions 80%. Newsom’s order mandates zero-emissions cars but says commercial trucks should be fossil-fuel-free by 2045 where feasible.
The state’s auto dealers are already questioning the feasibility of making consumer and commercial markets all electric within the next 15-to-25 years. Dealers note that while California leads the nation in sales of EVs, they still make up less than 10% of overall sales in the state, and “adoption is limited to the wealthy.”
Advances in battery chemistries and power electronics are lowering EV costs, but those vehicles remain more expensive than gasoline-powered models, creating other barriers to the transition, dealers groups said.
Brian Maas, president of the California New Car Dealers Association, also noted that Newsom’s order bypasses the state’s legislature, depriving interested parties from debating a massive policy change.
“While we support the state’s goals to combat climate change, there are many questions and factors that need to be thoughtfully considered and addressed before implementing such a mandate on consumers,” Maas said.
The move to ban gasoline-powered cars started in European cities where climate change and localized pollution were driving issues. Cites in the Netherlands announced bans by 2030 as early as 2015, and the movement accelerated when Paris, France, announced a 2025 ban in 2016. Since then, more than a dozen countries have announced bans with most starting in 2030. Norway’s ban starts in 2025, and that Scandinavian nation has become a leading buyer of EVs since announcing a ban in 2017.
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and Today's eMobility and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 20 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.