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California Announces the End of Internal Combustion Engines — Mostly

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved the Advanced Clean Cars II rule that sets California — and likely more than a dozen other states — on a path to eliminate new exclusively internal combustion engine vehicle sales by 2035. 

Interstate 5 traffic WC Clean Corridor
California banned the sale of new vehicles powered by internal combustion engines by 2035.

The ACC II regulation is phase two of the Advanced Clean Cars Program, originally adopted by CARB in 2012. 

The original ACC regulation was designed to bring together CARB’s passenger vehicle requirements to meet federal air quality standards and also support California’s AB 32 statute to develop and implement programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions back down to 1990 levels by 2020, a goal achieved in 2016 as a result of numerous greenhouse gas emissions mitigation programs.

The new ACC II regulation establishes a year-by-year roadmap that specifies 100% of new cars and light trucks sold in California will be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. However, that includes a limited number of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, so some internal combustion engines will still be available in the Golden State. The regulation codifies the light-duty vehicle goals set out in California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-79-20

Ending sales of vehicles powered by fossil fuels is a critical element in the state’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 or sooner. “Once again California is leading the nation and the world with a regulation that sets ambitious but achievable targets for ZEV sales,” said CARB Chair Liane Randolph. 

Automakers required to sell electrified vehicles

Gov. Gavin Newsom Jan. 2022
California Governor Gavin Newsom said in February the state was looking to be the example combatting climate change by reducing emissions.

The new regulation accelerates requirements that automakers deliver an increasing number of zero-emission light-duty vehicles each year beginning in model year 2026. Sales of new ZEVs and PHEVs will start with 35% that year, build to 68% in 2030 and reach 100% in 2035.

The regulation applies to automakers, but not auto dealers, and covers only new vehicle sales. It does not impact existing vehicles on the road today, which will still be legal to own and drive. Nothing in the regulation prevents any individual from continuing to drive a vehicle they already own. 

When computing the percentage of ZEVs and PHEVs sold, sales of full battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles primarily count toward fulfilling an automaker’s requirement. Battery-electric and fuel cell vehicles must have a minimum range of 150 miles to qualify under the program, include fast-charging ability and come equipped with a charging cord to facilitate charging, and meet new warranty and durability requirements.

The rule for PHEVs is different. In order to count, PHEVs must have an all-electric range of at least 50 miles under real-world driving conditions. In addition, automakers will be allowed to meet no more than 20% of their overall ZEV requirement with PHEVs. Conventional hybrids do not count towards an automaker’s electrified sales requirement. 

Pumping gas
Fourteen other states are likely to follow California’s lead in the ICE-powered vehicle sales ban.

The new regulation also takes regulatory steps to assure that ZEVs can be full replacements to gasoline vehicles, hold their market value for owners, and that used car buyers are getting a quality vehicle that will not pollute.

By model year 2030, the rules require all new vehicles to maintain at least 80% of electric range for 10 years or 150,000 miles. The requirement will be phased in from 70% for the 2026 through 2029 model year vehicles. 

By model year 2031, individual vehicle battery packs must be warranted to maintain 75% of their energy for eight years or 100,000 miles. That requirement will be phased in from 70% for the 2026 through 2030 model years. ZEV powertrain components must be warranted for at least three years or 50,000 miles.

Supporting the pre-owned electrified vehicle market 

The durability and warranty requirements in the regulation are designed to help establish a viable and dependable used ZEV market. The regulation also includes an approach that provides credits to automakers for certain actions that increase access to ZEVs by low-income households and people living in disadvantaged communities.

Jay Inslee 2022
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that would end sales of new ICE-powered vehicles in 2030.

Governor Newsom proposed, and the Legislature has approved, $2.7 billion in the current fiscal year, and $3.9 billion over three years, for investment in ZEV adoption, as well as clean mobility options for California’s most environmentally and economically burdened communities. The money allocated will be spent through the Clean Cars 4 All program to provide up to $9,500 to low-income drivers who scrap older vehicles in order to purchase something that runs cleaner.

Additionally, the statewide Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) provides up to $7,000 for income-qualified drivers to buy or lease a ZEV. The Clean Vehicle Assistance Program provides low-income car buyers with special financing and up to $5,000 in down-payment assistance.

The state’s ZEV budget includes $400 million over three years for the statewide expansion of Clean Cars 4 All and for a suite of clean transportation equity projects. The budget also includes $525 million for the Clean Vehicles Rebate Project (CVRP). In addition, there is $300 million to support additional home charging infrastructure.  

Raising the bar for internal combustion cars

The new regulations cover more than just EVs and hybrids.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe
Plug-in hybrids like the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe must travel at least 50 miles in electric-only mode to meet California’s new standard.

The new rule includes updated regulations for light- and medium-duty internal combustion engine vehicles as well. The new rules are designed to mitigate the air quality impacts from conventional vehicles. 

The regulation reduces the allowable exhaust emissions under more real-world driving conditions and emissions caused by fuel evaporation.  

Fourteen states expected to follow California

There are 14 states that currently follow California’s emissions rules. Collectively, those states account for about 40% of new vehicle sales in the United States. All of these states are expected to adopt the new ACC II regulations through their own rulemaking and legislative process. 

The 14 states following the California standards include Washington and Oregon on the west coast, and Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware in the east. In the nation’s interior, Minnesota and Colorado follow California’s emissions rules. 

In 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation (A.4302/S.2758) setting a goal that all new passenger cars and trucks sold in that state will be zero emissions by 2035. In addition, the Governor directed the Department of Environmental Conservation to release a proposed regulation that would significantly reduce air pollution from trucks. 

In 2021, NY Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation setting a goal that all new passenger cars and trucks sold in New York be zero emissions by 2035.

“The new law and regulation mark a critical milestone in our efforts and will further advance the transition to clean electric vehicles, while helping to reduce emissions in communities that have been overburdened by pollution from cars and trucks for decades,” Hochul said at the time. 

On the west coast, both Washington and Oregon were quick to signal support for California’s move. 

“Transportation is our state’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee after California’s action became official. “There is no way to talk about climate change without talking about transportation. This package will move us away from the transportation system our grandparents imagined and towards the transportation system our grandchildren dream of.”

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality released a statement saying that the state is already in the process of creating its own Advanced Clean Cars II Rules. Currently, Oregon requires auto manufacturers to increase the number of zero-emission vehicles available for sale in the state, beginning with the 2025 model year. The proposed rules would update the Oregon program to ensure it matches California’s standards.

“The regulation will lead to the production of high-quality electric vehicles and ensure long-lasting emissions benefits,” said Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality spokesperson Susan Mills in an emailed statement. “It will also support the development of a robust used zero-emission vehicle market, which will help to advance equitable access to clean mobility solutions and related emissions reductions in low-income and frontline communities.”

Right now, at least 16 states offer some kind of tax credit or other financial incentive to purchase an EV or PHEV. Additionally, numerous power companies, states, and other entities offer financial incentives to install EV charging systems in homes and business locations. 

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