California Wants to Ban Gas-Powered Cars by 2035.  Will New England Be Next?
electric vehicle power consumption

Are gasoline-powered vehicles headed for the scrap heap here in New England?  Not quite.  But a new transportation rule just issued in California could pave the way for a phase-out of new cars with internal combustion engines throughout most of New England by 2035.

Along with sweeping federal climate legislation just signed into law, this new California rule now ranks as one of America’s most impactful climate change polices.  That’s because California is not only the nation’s largest auto market, but also a trend setter for more than a dozen other states that typically follow California’s lead in setting their own auto emission standards.  

This includes most New England states (shaded in green in the table below) and 12 other states that, along with California, make up nearly 40% of the U.S. auto market.  

States Following California’s Transportation Emission RulesYear of Original State Rule AdoptionShare of U.S. Light-duty Vehicle Sales in 2020
New York19936.1%
Rhode Island20080.3%
New Jersey20093.5%
New Mexico20260.5%

Transportation Is Now America’s Biggest Source of Global Warming Emissions 

In 2016, transportation surpassed electric power as the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.  Now, with light-duty vehicles also going electric, it’s more important than ever to make the switch to solar power and other carbon-free energy sources to power them.  

The just-passed Inflation Reduction Act will invest $369 billion in new spending and tax credits on clean energy programs.  This includes raising the solar energy investment tax credit to 30% and extending it through 2032, and providing $7,500 in rebates toward the purchase of new electric vehicles.  Other important provisions in the law address home electrification, home battery installations and EV charging with solar power

While some states and other nations have adopted aspirational goals to accelerate deployment of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), California is the first state to require that all new passenger vehicles be emissions-free by 2035.  Interim targets for ZEV sales start at 35% in 2026, and then rise to 68% in 2030, before reaching 100% by 2035.  Currently, about 16% of new cars sold in California are ZEVs, up from 8% just two years ago.  California is the nation’s top auto market; it accounted for about one-third of all ZEVs sold in the U.S. last year.

California is combining its new clean-car mandate with $10 billion in state funding to make ZEVs more affordable and to build out charging stations and other electric-vehicle infrastructure, especially in low-income communities.  But it won’t stop there.  Next year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will introduce new federal standards to encourage automakers to build and sell more electric vehicles across all vehicle categories, including medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

What’s Next for New England?

Before other states can opt into the California ZEV standard, the EPA needs to approve a state waiver under the Clean Air Act, which is expected shortly.  Some other states – including Massachusetts and Vermont – already have similar regulations in the works, and many other states that follow California’s auto emission rules are expected to weigh adoption of like-minded policies over the next year or so.  

Here are some related climate policy developments in northern New England: 

  • Massachusetts just passed a new law, H.5060, that will help the state move toward its net-zero clean energy goals by updating climate policies across the transportation, electricity and building sectors.  The new law increases a point-of-sale rebate to $2,500 for ZEV purchases (and $1,500 for plug-in hybrids) and adds a rebate for low-income buyers, mirroring provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.  The Massachusetts law also boosts the size of residential solar installations that are eligible for the state’s net metering program from 10 kilowatts to 25 kW.  This leaves plenty of power available to charge multiple electric vehicles with solar panels as part of a complete home electrification program.
  • Vermont regulators also are weighing a plan that would ban new cars with internal combustion engines starting in 2035.  (As with the California rule, cars that run on gasoline or diesel would still be available for sale in the used-car market after 2035.)  Unlike other climate measures in Vermont, such as the clean heat standard, this policymaking process is being managed through the state’s Agency of Natural Resources instead of the Vermont legislature.  ANR officials submitted its draft transportation rule in late June, opened a public comment period in July, and will hold a series of public meetings on details of the plan starting in September.

Because EV’s share of new car sales is only about 7% in Vermont, it is not expected to meet the first ZEV goal set under California’s guidance – 35% by 2026.  (This target includes plug-in hybrids.)  The Agency of Natural Resources is proposing a 30% ZEV target by 2030, before catching up to the 100% target in 2035.

  • New Hampshire is the only state in New England that has not adopted California’s transportation rules over the last two decades.  While the Granite State does not have any clean energy goals of its own, its proximity to other states following California’s rules should put it on a similar path of ZEV growth, albeit with fewer state incentives to accelerate the pace of adoption.

No matter where you live, big changes are coming to the U.S. auto market.  And with the expanded federal and state tax incentives now being offered to spur EV and solar power purchases, you can be among the first to help shift the coming Green Energy Revolution into high gear.  

Solaflect Energy is your home energy management partner.  We help you install clean and affordable solar electricity and home battery systems for a more resilient and climate-friendly future. For more information email us or call (802) 649-3700.

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