In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) signed an unprecedented executive order banning the sale of new gas-powered cars and trucks after 2035.
The order was then kicked to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a state regulatory agency dedicated to air pollution, to formalize the rules in order to make Newsom’s decree a reality.
Now it looks like that reality is finally here. According to the New York Times:
California is expected to put into effect on Thursday its sweeping plan to prohibit the sale of new gasoline-powered cars by 2035, a groundbreaking move that could have major effects on the effort to fight climate change and accelerate a global transition toward electric vehicles.
The move in and of itself is quite significant, as it makes the California the first and only government anywhere in the world to have a complete zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) requirement on the books. But the biggest impact of the move could come from how other states respond.
Back to the Times:
The restrictions are important because not only is California the largest auto market in the United States, but more than a dozen other states typically follow California’s lead when setting their own auto emissions standards.
One of those states that follows California’s auto emissions standards is Colorado.
As it currently stands, California is the only state in the country allowed to establish their own vehicle emissions regulations, while other states are left either to adopt the California standards or those established by federal officials at the EPA. And on multiple occasions in recent years, Colorado has chosen to follow California’s lead.
Thanks to a 2019 Executive Order from Governor Polis (D.), and subsequent rulemaking from the unelected members of the Air Quality Control Commission, the Colorado auto industry and local consumers are subject to the whims of California bureaucrats, whether they like it or not.
The state is currently subject to California’s previous ZEV standards, which stipulates that auto dealers in the state must make an increasing minimum percentage of ZEV sales each year—5 percent annually by 2023—as part of their light-duty fleet.
With California now moving beyond its previous standard toward an outright ban on the sale of traditional gas-powered vehicles, Colorado could very well follow suit.
Colorado Energy Office (CEO) Executive Director Will Toor has already publicly said that Colorado would consider adopting the California ban once it was finalized. He also noted that Colorado officials were collaborating with California regulators throughout the gas-vehicle ban’s formalization process.
Given the state’s track record, it seems quite likely that Colorado consumers could be among those in the dozen or so states expected to be subject to the rule shortly.
At least 12 other states could potentially adopt the new California zero-emissions vehicle mandate relatively soon; another five states, which follow California’s broader vehicle pollution reduction program, are expected to adopt the rule in a year or so. If those states follow through, the restrictions on gasoline-vehicle sales would apply to about one-third of the United States’ auto market.
The California-model regulatory mandate represents a blunt force instrument where precision measures to address the impediments to widespread EV adoption are called for.
Electric vehicles are already beginning to penetrate the market among freely choosing consumers. Mandates are wholly unnecessary and stand only to burden those who either can’t afford their premium price tag, or whose lifestyle cannot be accommodated by the limitations an electric vehicle brings.
Rather than simply banning alternatives to EVs by government fiat, policymakers should allow the EV market to continue to innovate and produce better quality vehicles, suitable for the variety of functions currently filled by gas-powered options, at more competitive prices.
They should also address the glaring deficiencies in public charging infrastructure—which currently represents the most cited reason for EV skepticism among the public—by opening up the process for building to allow multiple firms to compete over charging station quality.
Subsidies and other government incentives aimed at encouraging people to buy electric vehicles have been around for well over a decade, with little success at creating widespread demand for EVs. The only thing to actually make EV demand take off for the first time among the broader public was an automaker with innovative battery technology and a vehicle design that the public was attracted to.
Successful electrification of the transportation sector cannot be centrally-planned.
Colorado policymakers should set aside the subsidies and heavy-handed vehicle bans, and instead let free consumers make their own choices in vehicle purchasing. If EV demand is truly there, the market will provide.