Is California ready to join Great Britain, France, China, India and other countries in setting a phase-out date for gas cars and light trucks?  If the Clean Cars 2040 Act–AB1745–introduced into the California Assembly January 3, 2018, is approved, only zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) will be allowed to register after January 1, 2040.  (that’s right—not even plug-in hybrids).

The bills’ sponsors argue that the Act will allow California to meet its climate goals such as AB32 which requires a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2040.  They state, “The transportation sector accounts for almost 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions in California, with cars and light-duty trucks making up 70% of the sector’s emissions, and ZEVs are a critical component to our efforts to improve the environment and health in our communities.”

On November 1, 2017, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board called for California to “ban sales of new vehicles that emit greenhouse gases causing global warming,” citing rising temperatures, intensifying weather impacts, wildfires, and droughts resulting from climate change. In its October 2016 report “Clean Air Future,” the American Lung Association estimates that in 2015 California suffered $15 billion in health costs due to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, including respiratory illness, premature mortality, and lost workdays.

The bill does not apply to commercial motor vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds, and allows people moving into California to keep their vehicles, whether ZEV or not.

Among many supporters of the bill, the main criticism of the bill has been, “Why wait until 2040? Won’t the planet be cooked by then?” (see blog post here on latest global warming data)  But even so, the bill does represent a great educational opportunity to get the public to recognize that it is time to get off gas.

Proponents of the bill recognize that oil company opposition will be stiff.  Even if the legislature approves, the federal government will be an obstacle.  California does have a successful history of receiving waivers from the federal EPA to implement stronger pollution controls than federal regulations, but clearly this current EPA is not going to approve any such waiver for California.  Of course, California could pass the law in the next year or so, and apply for a waiver after 2020, hopefully with a non-climate denying administration.

The bill’s fact sheet from co-author Assemblymember Phil Ting quotes the October 19, 2017 Wall Street Journal’s car reviewer after more than a week of his test driving the Chevrolet Bolt.  He states, “In the end, it will not matter how much Big Oil spends propagandizing against electric cars or if gasoline goes back to 30 cents a gallon. Gainsayers need only run down to a Chevrolet dealership and drive, back to back, dollar for dollar, one the company’s anodyne family haulers and the Bolt. Which one is quieter, more refined, quicker around town (much!), with better ride and handling? Which one feels like the future and the past?”

Full text and details about the bill: