California plan aims to triple sale of electric cars by 2026

FILE - In this May 13, 2020, file photo, Tesla cars are loaded onto carriers at the Tesla electric car plant in Fremont, Calif. California wants electric vehicle sales to triple in the next four years to 35% of all new car purchases. Regulations passed Tuesday, April 12, 2022 by the California Air Resources Board set a roadmap for the state to achieve California Gov. Gavin Newsom's ambitious goal of phasing out the sale of new gas powered cars. The draft must go through a months-long state regulatory process and get approval from the U.S. EPA. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)
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Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California wants electric vehicle sales to triple in the next four years to 35% of all new car purchases, an aggressive target set as part of the goal to phase out the sale of gas-powered cars.

The proposal released Tuesday by the California Air Resources Board puts the state on a roadmap to achieve Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ambitious goal of phasing out the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. It begins a months-long state review process and the plan requires approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Emissions spewed from gas-powered passenger vehicles make up about a quarter of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions — more than any other single source, according to the state air board. California has established some of the nation’s most aggressive climate policies and is the first state in the country that’s set a target for transitioning to zero-emission vehicles.

About 11% of all new passenger car sales nationally happen in California, giving the state significant influence over the auto market. Californians would still be allowed to drive gas-powered cars and sell used ones.

The rules would require 35% of new car sales for model year 2026 to be zero-emission vehicles, including battery or hydrogen powered, or plug-in electric hybrids. That’s a sharp increase from 2021, when about 12% of all cars sold in the state were zero-emission, according to the air board.

That requirement ramps up to 100% of all new sales by 2035. New gas-powered cars wouldn’t be completely banned; up to 20% of sales by 2035 could be plug-in hybrids that run on a combination of battery and gas power, though the regulations boost how far such cars must be able to travel on battery power alone.

Major automakers including Ford and Toyota deferred to the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, an industry group, for a statement on the proposal. The group says the industry is “committed to electrification and a net-zero carbon transportation future” but raised questions about the drastic ramp up in the required zero-emission vehicle sales.

“Automakers will certainly work to meet whatever standards are eventually adopted, but these draft requirements will be extremely challenging even in California and may not be achievable in all the states that currently follow California’s program,” the group said.

Nine states including new York and Massachusetts follow California’s current zero-emission vehicle rules, which set sales and other requirements through model year 2025. Five other states are set to start following California’s rules for future model years. If the federal government approves California’s new plan, the other states would have to decide whether to follow suit.

Last month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee went further than California, signing a law requiring all new cars registered in the state to be electric by 2030. New York has a 2035 deadline.