California’s proposed 2035 EV sales mandate faces scrutiny at EPA hearing

Credit: Rivian

California’s bold electric vehicle targets are about to be put to the test. On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to hold a public hearing to discuss whether it would approve California’s plan to require all vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emissions by 2035. 

The state’s zero-emissions plan saw some progress in August 2022, when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved a landmark plan to phase out new gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, as noted in a Reuters report. CARB then requested a Clean Air Act waiver from the EPA in May 2023. The waiver is necessary for California to enforce its planned stricter emissions standards.

The EPA’s official website describes California’s waiver request as follows: “The Clean Air Act allows California to seek a waiver of the preemption which prohibits states from enacting emission standards for new motor vehicles. EPA must grant a waiver, however, before California’s rules may be enforced.” 

The upcoming public hearing on Wednesday, January 10th, 2024, is poised to open a crucial phase in the plan’s journey. The EPA will accept public comments until February 27th, 2024, before deciding whether to grant California the requested waiver or not.

California’s zero-emissions vehicle plan is expected to cut smog-causing pollution from cars by 25% by 2037. The roadmap also aims to require 35% of new cars sold to be electric, plug-in hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell-powered by 2026. If California’s plan is followed, the percentage of new cars sold in the state is expected to climb to 68% by 2030, and by 2035, the percentage will be 100%.

Inasmuch as California’s zero-emissions targets are very optimistic, they are also very costly. California’s waiver estimates the plan would cost $210.35 billion before 2040. The benefits of the plan, however, are expected to reach a much more substantial $301.41 billion. 

President Biden, who has strongly pushed for the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, has so far refused to set a date for the phaseout of the sale of combustion-powered vehicles. Republicans, meanwhile, seem to be taking the opposing side. Former president Donald Trump, for one, has vowed to put the whole EV race in reverse if he proves successful in reclaiming the White House.

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California’s proposed 2035 EV sales mandate faces scrutiny at EPA hearing
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