Onward: California to require all new cars sold to be zero-emissions by 2035

On August 25, 2022, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved the Advanced Clean Cars Rule II (Rule), requiring all new vehicles sold in California to be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2035. Governor Gavin Newsom laid the groundwork for the Rule with its Executive Order N-79-20 dated September 23, 2020. The Rule accelerates the increase in sales percentages of passenger ZEVs, and automakers of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) must comply starting in 2026. This rule is an important part of the state’s plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2045.


Section 209 of the Clean Air Act allows California to set vehicle emission standards that are more stringent than federal standards. To date, 14 states have adopted California’s earlier ZEV program, which requires automakers to produce and deliver for sale an increasing number of low- and zero-emission vehicles through the 2025 model year. If those states adopted the rule, it would affect a significant segment of the nation’s passenger vehicles. Some states, including Washington and Massachusetts, have already supported the rule.

Since automakers already follow California standards for their passenger vehicles, this rule has significant implications for automakers. The rule will significantly increase energy demands and therefore also affect utilities, power infrastructure development projects and businesses, and of course, vehicle buyers.

Vehicle manufacturers

The rule expedites ZEV and PHEV vehicle sales requirements, but also imposes strict requirements on minimum vehicle range, battery durability, and manufacturer in-use testing and reporting. These requirements may put smaller automakers at a disadvantage, given the cost of researching and developing newer, more efficient and longer-lasting batteries and electric vehicles. The rule’s data normalization reporting requirements, which differ from current electric vehicle communication protocols, also raise concerns for automakers and could require significant investments of time and money related to the development of digital infrastructure. compliant. Since the rule also standardizes charging requirements, some automakers have expressed concern that they will either have to modify their current charging sockets or provide adapters to every customer.

Utilities and electrical infrastructure

California’s transition to ZEVs will result in increased demands on the state’s power grid. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine expressed concerns about the capacity of the power grid, saying “the grid does not currently have the capacity to add millions of battery electric vehicles or even fuel cell today”. Some people are also skeptical about the ability of California’s investor-owned electric utilities to safely build and maintain the additional infrastructure needed to meet growing demands on the grid. This skepticism is compounded by increasingly extreme heat waves in California, which are driving record-breaking demands for electricity from Californians to cool their homes and businesses. If demand exceeds capacity, the state faces the prospect of rotating blackouts. The short-term solution to avoiding planned outages is for Californians to reduce their electricity use during peak hours, a task that may be hampered as more residents will need to draw on the grid for their transportation needs.

While federal programs are currently supporting efforts to expand the nation’s electric vehicle charging network, more state and local actions will be needed to ensure demand is met. Because home ownership in California is among the lowest in the nation, some ZEV owners may not be able to install charging stations in the rental homes or apartments where they live. Local agencies may also see an increase in requests from project developers for the siting, construction and support of public charging stations. In the long term, local agencies may need to address the transport charging challenge with more comprehensive solutions, such as mandating the construction of new housing or businesses to include a minimum number of charging stations or to provide access to chargers for members of the general public.

Vehicle buyers

This rule will likely reinforce some vehicle buyers’ existing concerns about buying electric vehicles, concerns such as range anxiety (that’s to say, the mileage of a charged battery is insufficient) and the lack of market options to meet their desired configurations. CARB notes that there are currently more than 70 different makes and models of electric, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell electric vehicles on the market, including pickup trucks, SUVs and hatchbacks with 4WD options. This number is expected to increase as manufacturers introduce new models to comply with the rule. The CARB also says new EVs “typically have a range greater than 200 miles,” which meets most everyday driving needs. Additionally, CARB estimates that ZEVs “already save consumers thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle compared to conventional cars. . . up to $4,600 in fuel costs for the first seven years alone.

Due to its scope, scope and potential effects on many relevant stakeholders in the transportation industry, challenges to this rule are likely. Nevertheless, the transportation industry is already building its capacity to produce more electric vehicles. Interested stakeholders may also consider relevant grants under the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, which allows, among other things, grants for funding new infrastructure needed to charge ZEVs and certain tax credits. for alternative fueling stations in rural or low-income areas.

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