BY ALEXEI KOSEFF
France and the United Kingdom are doing it. So is India. And now one lawmaker would like California to follow their lead in phasing out gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles.
When the Legislature returns in January, Assemblyman Phil Ting plans to introduce a bill that would ban the sale of new cars powered by internal-combustion engines after 2040. The San Francisco Democrat said it’s essential to get California drivers into an electric fleet if the state is going to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, since the transportation sector accounts for more than a third of all emissions.
“The market is moving this way. The entire world is moving this way,” Ting said. “At some point you need to set a goal and put a line in the sand.” California already committed five years ago to putting 1.5 million “zero-emission vehicles,” such as electric cars and plug-in hybrids, on the road by 2025. By that time, the state wants these cleaner models to account for 15 percent of all new car sales.
But progress has been modest so far, as consumers wait for prices to drop and battery ranges to improve, or opt for large trucks and SUVs that are not available among electric offerings. Slightly more than 300,000 zero-emission vehicles have now been sold in California, and they accounted for just under 5 percent of new car sales in the state in the first half of the year.
Ting is among the policymakers pushing to increase incentives for drivers to ditch their gas guzzlers. He is also working on legislation that would overhaul California’s electric car rebate program by making more money available for rebates, then ratcheting down the value of those discounts as the state hits sales targets.
“California is used to being first. But we’re trying to catch up to this,” Ting said.
France and the United Kingdom both announced this summer that they would ban the sale of new gas and diesel cars after 2040. India is aiming to get there by 2030. And China said this month that it would stop the production and sale of vehicles powered solely by fossil fuels in the coming years.
Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, caused a stir earlier this weekwhen she told Bloomberg News that California might consider doing the same.
“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’ The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California,” she said.
Her remarks were met with skepticism from automakers and industry analysts, and outrage from many drivers. But Ting said the state must be aggressive in establishing a vision for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“If you had told me five years ago that we might have autonomous vehicles on the road soon, I would have laughed,” he said. “The technology is moving so quickly, I don’t know if by 2040 we’ll be owning our own cars.”