On Aug. 25, in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, California Governor Gavin Newsom and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) made it official: by 2035, no more gas vehicles will be sold in California.
Even just one gallon of fuel can emit 8,000-10,000 grams of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat and causes the Earth to be much warmer than it should be. A typical passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This figure is extremely worrying to say the least. The burning of fossil fuels like gas is the number one cause of global warming. Even worse: gas-powered cars alone account for “about one-third of all U.S. air pollution,” as observed by National Geographic. Your car releases greenhouse gasses which trap heat and cause the Earth to be much warmer than it should be, and the results are seen worldwide. The icebergs are melting, and thousands of animal habitats have been disrupted. And while it may seem these effects do not matter to us, studies have found that vehicle emissions in particular affect people directly.
“The smog, carbon monoxide, and other toxins emitted by vehicles are especially troubling because they leave tailpipes at street level, where humans breathe the polluted air directly into their lungs. That can make auto emissions an even more immediate health concern than toxins emitted high in the sky by industrial smokestacks,” National Geographic reported.
Newsom intends to fight these effects by decreasing the number of gas-powered vehicles sold in CA. Eventually, by 2035, that number will be zero.
“This plan’s yearly targets—35 percent ZEV sales by 2026, 68 percent by 2030, and 100 percent by 2035—provide our roadmap to reducing dangerous carbon emissions and moving away from fossil fuels. That is 915 million oil barrels’ worth of emissions that will not pollute our communities,” Newsom’s website addressed. “We can solve this climate crisis if we focus on the big, bold steps necessary to cut pollution. California now has a groundbreaking, world-leading plan to achieve 100 percent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035.”
Since August, Newsom and CARB have approved the Zero-Emission Vehicle Program (ZEV), which is “designed to achieve the state’s long-term emission reduction goals by requiring auto manufacturers to offer for sale specific numbers of the very cleanest cars available,” as stated on the ZEV Program webpage.
However, the projected shift to ZEVs is unrealistic, especially in light of the fact Newsom intends to achieve it in only 12 years. There are many factors why with money, of course, chiefly among them.
In order to cover the expenses the ZEV Program requires, Newsom is putting $10 billion on the line, but will it be enough? After all, thanks to inflation and the current car shortage, the average ZEV costs $66,000, about $20,000 more than the average gas car in CA. Not only that, more ZEVs on the road means there also needs to be more places to charge them, which (along with taking an hour longer to do) can sometimes cost more than filling a gas tank.
And where will all the energy to power ZEVs be coming from? The drastic shift in switching from gasoline-powered to electricity-powered vehicles in such a short amount of time will put a strain on electricity grids. This means that when demand inevitably skyrockets, so will electricity costs.
Put together, low-income families will be the ones taking a hit when gas-powered cars are no longer sold in California. The state does offer a subsidy to help make ZEVs more affordable, but because of inflated prices, ZEVs are still out of reach for many consumers. And even if all Californians could afford to buy a ZEV, if they live in an apartment or otherwise do not have access at home to a charging station, they will likely be unable to charge their vehicle overnight, meaning they will have to pay both money and time on recharging their car during the day.
And those are not the only problems with the ban on the selling of gas-powered cars. John Bozzella, president of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, states that it will be “extremely challenging” for the auto industry to adjust to.
“Whether or not these requirements are realistic or achievable is directly linked to external factors like inflation, charging and fuel infrastructure, supply chains, labor, critical mineral availability and pricing, and the ongoing semiconductor shortage,” Bozzella told the New York Times.
You cannot just throw money at global warming and expect for everything to go as planned. There are too many factors at play for Newsom and CARB’s initiative to work without flaw. The ZEV Program has potential, but it still needs adjusting. ZEVs are many consumers’ preferred choice of car, and the top reason to buy one is to protect the environment. But with ZEVs unavailable to so many people, how can we lower greenhouse gas emissions?
Well, hybrid cars are a great alternative to ZEVs. Along with ZEVs, hybrids will be subsidized by the ZEV Program, but there is less of an emphasis on them than there should be. With a hybrid, consumers are able to utilize both a battery and gas tank, combining the best of both worlds. This gives hybrids a higher mileage while still being eco-friendly, as they run first on battery charges, then on gas.
But most importantly, hybrids are much cheaper than ZEVs: they typically cost only $5,000-$6,000 more than the average passenger vehicle, making them much more affordable to the average consumer.
So while transitioning from gas to electric is appealing, we have to be realistic. The ZEV Program may look like a great idea, but looking through your rose-tinted glasses reveals its flaws. However, that does not mean the plan is completely unreasonable. It is possible for CA to completely switch from gas to electric, but we will need more than 12 years to accomplish it; there is a lot more work to do than throwing money at the ZEV Program. Hopefully, Gov. Newsom and CARB stay grounded and see that.