California plans for new cars to be zero emission by 2035

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom's new executive order plans to reduce the state's reliance on gas-powered vehicles within the next 15 years.

By Marcos Franco, Staff Writer

A car being charged at the Fashion Square mall. October 3rd, 2020. Los Angeles, Calif. Gov. Newsom announced on Sept. 23 he will begin moving the state towards a zero emission future by 2035. An executive order was issued stating that sales of all new passenger vehicles be zero emission. (Photo by Ava Rosate/The Valley Star)

In an attempt to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles, California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that requires all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the state to be zero emission by 2035.

Newsom unveiled a plan on Sept. 23 to guide the state away from its dependence on fossil fuels. Although all new vehicles sold will be required to be zero emission by 2035, the directive will not prevent gas-powered car owners from driving or selling their vehicles in the used car market. In California, transportation currently accounts for over half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the state, as well as 80 percent of the smog-forming pollution.

“The real culprits are diesel trucks and busses,” said George Leddy, professor of environmental science at Valley College. “We need to think about how we can transition to electric trucks.”

Since the order only applies to road-passenger automobiles, medium and heavy-duty vehicles such as semi trucks and city busses, will not be required to transition to zero-emission until 2045 where feasible. These types of vehicles run on diesel fuel since it is more affordable and efficient at powering large motored machinery. Diesel is the main power source for public transportation nationwide. In Los Angeles alone, Metro public transit vehicles traveled more than 1.7 billion miles in 2019. Los Angeles County also homed 14 of the 25 worst cities for air pollution in the entire country last year.

Although Californians were first warned of the effects of climate change in 1989, residents are witnessing the expected projections more than 30 years later. Predictions such as build up of heat trapping gasses in the atmosphere have led to unforeseen heatwaves and wildfires this year throughout the state. Despite the warning in 1989, climate change has been slowly unraveling across the state long before then. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air has increased by 40 percent since the late 1700s. Southern California has also heated up three degrees in the last century and it is still becoming warmer.

“The heat is on,” said Bryon Sher, a former California politician, in 1989. “The state can either ignore what science is telling us or we can respond to this challenge in a responsible way.”

In 1975, car manufacturers introduced the first automobiles built with a catalytic converter in order to be in compliance with the EPA’s regulation of exhaust emissions. This device reduces the amount of toxic gasses released from a combustion engine and has come standard on every car built since. Although the catalytic converter is a great accessory for reducing the amount of harmful emissions, it does not filter out all pollutants.

In the 15-year gap, California lawmakers plan to use their market power in order to push for innovation in zero-emission vehicles as well as drive down costs for everyone. According to Car and Driver, the average cost of an all electric vehicle is $55,600, 65 percent more expensive than the $36,600 average of a gas-powered vehicle. The directive vows to ensure needed infrastructure to support zero-emission vehicles as well as accelerate the production of affordable fueling and charging options.

Government officials claim that by the time the order goes into effect, all electric-powered vehicles will almost certainly be cheaper. From sales prices to general maintenance, the projected cost of owning and upkeeping an electric car is expected to match the average cost of conventional gas powered cars. In September, Tesla announced plans to release a new car within the next three years that will cost only $25,000, making it the cheapest all-electric car to date.

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