California Ban on New Gas Cars May Catch On Around the World

Here's hoping

  • California has banned the sale of gas cars after 2035. 
  • Starting in 2026, at least 20% of new cars must be battery- or hydrogen-powered.
  • Where California leads, the rest of the world often follows.
An old abandoned vehicle in the desert.

Rémi Jacquaint / Unsplash

California will ban the sale of all new gas-powered cars by 2035, setting the pace for the rest of the world. 

California has a history of radical green laws that become normal in the rest of the world soon after. For example, 14 US states have hopped on board its zero-emissions standards for cars instead of following less-stringent federal regulations. Now, California has set out its plan to ban gas cars, which should lead to similar changes over the globe. 

"California's leadership in sustainability is the product of a number of factors that combine in a fairly unique fashion," Ryan Rickards, COO of electric vehicle transition advocate EVE, told Lifewire via email. "The state's beautiful nature is part of its identity and economy and faces significant threats—in the form of droughts and wildfires—which are exacerbated by climate change. This has led to even stronger public engagement by Californians. Finally, unlike most other US states and nations around the world, many California-based businesses are aligned with the state's focus on environmentalism. After all, California is home to sustainability leaders like Patagonia, Apple, Google, and—until recently—Tesla." 

Is This Really a Ban?

Yup. From 2035, you'll no longer be able to buy a new car that runs solely on gasoline. You will still be able to buy and sell used models, but new cars will be off the menu, as it were. Even plug-in hybrid sales will be curtailed. They'll still be allowed, but only up to 20% of all car sales. 

A Tesla Model s in the city.

Roman Stasiuk / Getty Images

The ban won't be an instant change. It actually begins in 2026 and is pretty stringent even at the beginning. At that time, 35% of new car sales must be battery- or hydrogen-powered. 

The takeaway is pretty clear. If you're a car manufacturer, you'd better forget about petrol engines, because they're the past. If you keep pushing them, you will be selling them into a diminishing customer pool.

The End Is Nigh

For carmakers, this is a huge deal. This ban obviously only applies to California, but as the most populous state in the US and arguably its most car-happy, it represents an outsized part of the US market. And as already mentioned, what happens in California tends to end up happening elsewhere. In 1966, California established the first tailpipe emissions standards in the US. A few years later (1970), the government introduced the Clean Air Act

"California had over 31 million registered vehicles in 2019, a number that dwarfs Texas's 23 million cars and ranks 10 amongst nations, coming in behind Italy, which is in ninth place. Add to this the states that tend to follow California's lead on emissions standards, and California has outsize leverage when it comes to vehicle standards and sales," Andrew Sachs, president at Gateway Parking Services, told Lifewire via email.

Two people walking away from a line of electric vehicles at a parking lot charging area.

Tomwang112 / Getty Images

Dead Dinosaurs

But not everybody is on board. 

"While outlawing combustion engines might seem like a great idea on paper, it's a horrible idea in practice. Shipping companies are struggling with new laws that have banned older diesel semis in the state, which was a major contributing factor to many of the supply chain issues we've all been dealing with," Kyle MacDonald, director of operations Mojio, a company that provides GPS tracking for vehicle fleets, told Lifewire via email.

On top of this, newer replacement trucks are in short supply like everything else these days. And postponing essential changes to support existing industry status quos is how we got into this mess.

This kind of foot-dragging is normal, as entrenched interests have to be slowly chipped away before we can move to the future. The difference is that this time, there's no time. We cannot afford to keep pumping carbon into the atmosphere because it's the only one we've got, and it's already ruined. Hopefully, the absurdly extreme weather that is already normal will motivate us to chip away those old barnacles a little faster.

Was this page helpful?