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California Mulls Ban of Gasoline-Powered Cars

State bill would only allow zero-emission vehicle sales after 2040

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A legislator in California wants his state to follow the lead of France, Great Britain and other nations by outlawing the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles. The effort is part of a new bill that would set a deadline of 2040 to meet the goal.

The Clean Cars 2040 Act (AB 1745) would restrict new passenger-vehicle sales after Jan. 1, 2040, to zero-emissions vehicles. The bill defines zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) as those that “cannot produce exhaust emissions of any criteria pollutant or greenhouse gas under any operational mode or condition” or, more commonly, battery-powered electric vehicles and hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered vehicles. The law would not apply to large commercial vehicles (those heavier than 10,000 pounds) or vehicles owned by people who are moving into California from another state.

“We’re at an inflection point: We’ve got to address the harmful emissions that cause climate change,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D), author of the bill. “Achieving the goal of electrification of transportation is crucial for the health of our people and the planet.” He said fossil-fuel-powered vehicles are responsible for almost 40% of California’s greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions.

California has set the goal of cutting GHG emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. To get there, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has set a goal to have 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025. The state leads the country in the number of EVs currently on the road—nearly 300,000—and the percentage of new vehicles sold that are EVs, or 1.9%. This compares to a national average of around 1%.

According to Ting, the state would actually need to have 5 million ZEVs by 2030 to meet its longer-term goal of cutting GHG emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. “By spurring the use of zero-emissions vehicles, we’re creating a mechanism to ensure a healthier future for Californians and the entire region,” he said.

According to a fact sheet from Ting’s office, consumers would save money by shifting to ZEVs. It calculated that, based on the price of electricity for California residential customers as of September 2017, the cost of driving a ZEV would fall between $5 to $7 per 100 miles of driving, or about half the fuel cost of an average California driver (who drives 14,440 miles annually, with an average fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon, and gasoline at $3.14 per gallon, as of Dec. 10, 2017).

The legislation follows reports last year that Brown wants the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to consider whether the state could eventually ban fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, after being intrigued by China’s reported plan to set a deadline for sales. In 2016 and 2017, Norway, France, Great Britain, India, The Netherlands and Germany either announced bans of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles—beginning anywhere from 2025 to 2040—or discussed plans to consider a ban.

Kerry Jackson, a fellow at the Center for California Reform of the Pacific Research Institute, a San Francisco-based free-market think tank, told The San Diego Union-Tribune that the legislation could have unintended consequences.

“I don’t think they’ve thought this out,” Jackson said. “The economy when left to itself sends price signals. But government doesn’t always have that kind of information and can’t make good decisions. Yet it wants to make these top-down decisions. And quite often they don’t work.”

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