Despite being a major win for the climate, analysts warn that California’s ambitious plan to ban gas-powered cars by 2035 faces several challenges.

In an unanimous vote last Thursday, the California Air Resources Board –  the state’s top air regulator – voted to ban the sale of gas-powered cars effectively by 2035. 

With the adoption of the Advanced Clean Cars II, the statewide plan that mandates the sale of zero emissions and hybrid plug-in vehicles, California became the world’s first government to effectively ban gas-powered cars.

The plan’s initial goals are set for 2026 and 2030. By then, at least 35% and 68% of total new vehicle sales respectively must be powered by batteries or hydrogen. 

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“This is monumental,” California Air Resources Board member Daniel Sperling told CNN. “This is the most important thing that CARB has done in the last 30 years. It’s important not just for California, but it’s important for the country and the world.”

California’s cities are notorious for having congested freeways and smog-filled skies. Not surprisingly, Los Angeles – where more than one in every two people own a car – is the leading city on the most ozone-polluted list

To reduce air pollution, the state recently adopted some of the nation’s strictest regulations for vehicles. To target personal vehicular emissions, many California cities are now increasing public transportation infrastructure. The government is also encouraging residents to transition to electric vehicles (EVs) by offering tax breaks and other financial incentives while expanding its network of charging stations. 

According to the California Energy Commission, in 2021 alone, EVs represented 12.4% of all vehicle sales, placing the state as the indisputable US market leader. Furthermore, California has almost 35,000 charging stations, by far the highest number across the country. 

Despite all this, analysts say the industry faces several challenges in ending sales of gas-powered cars by 2035.

Among the main roadblocks is the cost prices of electric vehicles. With the average price currently being around US$66,000, EVs are effectively well beyond the means of many people, and this despite the recent $7,500 tax credit provided by the Inflation Reduction Act adopted by the US government earlier this month.

Moreover, even though California has one of the most advanced infrastructure networks for electric vehicles in the whole country, experts believe that other states must drastically increase the availability and reliability of charging stations if they hope to incentivise people to buy EVs.

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