California’s decision to ban gas cars is an ambitious one, but the energy grid is not ready to support it yet.
Opinion by Griffin O’Rourke, Staff Writer
In a momentous decision, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently issued an executive order that will ban car manufacturers from producing and selling gas powered vehicles after 2035. The California Air Resources Board adopted the ban, but the move is not big enough.
This decision marks a leap forward in the challenge to reduce carbon emissions, but unless California expands the way it creates clean power, the state may be left in the dark.
The proposal, called Advanced Clean Cars II, calls for 35 percent of cars sold in 2026 to produce zero emissions with the goal rising to 68 percent by 2030. The agenda is an escalation of the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, but critics question if California can meet the demands of millions of electric vehicles on a clean power grid.
Extreme California heat put the power grid to the test recently, which afflicted the entire state. The California Independent System Operator, a corporation that manages the flow of electricity through state power lines, reported that the state’s energy grid was pushed to a record-breaking 52,061 megawatts with imminent power outages.
Blackouts were barely avoided as Newsom pushed an emergency message to mobile devices across the state for residents to reduce power use until the late evening hours, including charging their cars. Owners of electric vehicles shouldn’t have to hold off on charging, and the problem will only grow as more people buy these cars. The cutback in power use was not the only thing keeping the lights on as the Associated Press reported the state utilized natural gas generators.
California heat waves are projected to grow in severity and frequency in the coming years, and the grid is already strained as people are turning up their air conditioners.
As of 2021, electric cars make up only two percent of registered vehicles in the state — 534,000 out of the more than 36.2 million cars on the road. When California phases out gas-powered vehicles with electric, the state will fall short of the electrical demands.
Proponents of the ban suggest that most electric car owners will simply charge their cars in the evening to avoid peak energy hours. This move was advised by the state in the recent heatwave, but with more electric cars parked in California driveways, peak hours will simply shift to evening hours, proving too taxing on the already buckling grid.
Nuclear power, which utilizes steam and turbines, may be the only solution for California as it boasts a high-energy output with clean emissions. Nuclear energy as the main source of power in addition to renewables would be more than enough to power homes and electric vehicles across the state, which would make for a much cooler ride for Californians.