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Charging Ahead: California To Require All New Cars Sold To Be Zero Emissions In 2035 – Clean Air / Pollution

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On August 25, 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB)
approved the Advanced Clean Cars II rule (Rule), requiring
all new vehicles sold in California to be zero-emission vehicles
(ZEVs) by 2035. Governor Gavin Newsom laid the foundation for the Rule with his
September 23, 2020, Executive Order N-79-20. The Rule accelerates
the increased sales percentages of passenger ZEVs, and plug-in
hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) automakers are required to meet
starting in 2026. This Rule is an important component of the
State’s plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045.


Clean Air Act Section 209 authorizes California to set stricter
vehicle emission standards than the federal standards. To date,
14 states have adopted
California’s prior ZEV program,
which requires car manufacturers to produce and deliver for sale an
increasing number of low-emitting and zero-emitting vehicles
through model year 2025. Should these states adopt the Rule, it
would affect a significant segment of the country’s passenger
vehicles. Some states, including Washington and Massachusetts, have already supported the

Because automakers already follow California’s standards for
their passenger vehicles, this Rule has significant implications
for vehicle manufacturers. The Rule will substantially increase
energy demands and thus will also affect utilities, electrical
infrastructure development projects and firms, and of course,
vehicle purchasers.

Vehicle Manufacturers

The Rule accelerates ZEV and PHEV vehicle sales requirements but
also imposes stringent requirements on vehicles’ minimum range,
battery durability, and manufacturer in-use testing and reporting.
These requirements may disadvantage smaller automakers, given the
cost of researching and developing newer, more efficient, and more
durable batteries and electric vehicles. The Rule’s data
standardization reporting requirements, which differ from current
electric vehicle communication protocols, also raise concerns for
automakers and could require significant investments of time and
money relating to developing compliant digital infrastructure.
Because the Rule also standardizes charging requirements, certain
vehicle manufacturers have expressed concerns that they will either
have to alter their current charging inlets or provide adapters to
every customer.

Utilities and Electrical Infrastructure

California’s transition to ZEVs will bring increased demands
on the state’s power grid. Researchers at the University of California Irvine have raised
concerns over the power grid’s capacity, stating that “the
grid does not currently have the capability to add millions of
battery electric or even fuel-cell electrical vehicles today.”
Some people are also skeptical that California’s existing
investor-owned electric utilities are going to be able to safely
build and maintain the additional infrastructure necessary to keep
up with increasing demands on the grid. Compounding that skepticism
are California’s increasingly extreme heat
, which are causing record electricity demands from
Californians cooling their homes and businesses. If demand exceeds
capacity, the state faces the prospect of rotating power outages.
The short-term solution to avoiding planned outages is for
Californians to reduce their power usage during peak hours—a
task which may be hampered as more residents will need to tap into
the grid for their transportation needs.

While federal programs currently support efforts to
develop the country’s electric vehicle charging network, more
state and local action will be required to ensure the demand is
met. Because California homeownership is among the lowest in the country, some ZEV
owners may not be able to install charging stations in the rental
homes or apartments where they live. Local agencies may also see an
increase in applications by project developers for siting,
building, and supporting public charging stations. In the long
term, local agencies may need to confront the challenge of
transportation charging with more holistic solutions, such as
mandating new housing or business construction to include a minimum
number of charging stations or to provide charger access to members
of the general public.

Vehicle Purchasers

This Rule will likely further some vehicle purchasers’
existing concerns about purchasing electric vehicles, concerns such
as range anxiety (i.e., the mileage from a charged battery
is insufficient) and the lack of market options to meet their
desired configurations. CARB notes that there are currently over 70
different makes and models of electric, plug-in hybrid electric,
and fuel cell electric vehicles on the market including pick-up
trucks, SUVs, and hatchbacks with 4-wheel-drive options. That
number should grow as manufacturers introduce new models to comply
with the Rule. CARB also states that new electric vehicles
“typically have ranges above 200 miles,” which meet most
daily driving needs. Furthermore, CARB believes that ZEVs “already save
consumers thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle
compared to conventional cars . . . up to $4,600 in fuel costs in
just the first seven years.”

Due to its scope, breadth, and potential effects on many
relevant stakeholders in the transportation industry, challenges to
this Rule are likely. Nevertheless, the transportation industry is
already building its capacity to produce greater numbers of
electric vehicles. Interested stakeholders may also want to
consider relevant grants under the
recently passed Inflation Reduction Act
, which authorizes,
among other things, grants for funding new infrastructure needed to
charge ZEVs and certain tax credits for alternative fuel refueling
stations in rural or low-income areas.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.

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