California announced an ambitious measure this summer: to ban the sale of new gasoline cars from 2035 – in just 13 years, like the text adopted by the European Parliament. The law was validated at the end of August, still with the guiding idea of the State to limit its CO2 emissions as much as possible. However, the main culprit is transport, hence this bold policy in 13 years. The authorities specify that the transition to all-electric will be gradual, if only because a car is generally still in use 20 years after its purchase.
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Californian law provides for 35% of electric cars sold in 2026 – against 16% today – then 68% in 2030 and therefore 100% after 2035. Let us be clear, it is only a question of new cars. Californians will of course still be able to purchase a gas-powered car in another state if they wish and continue to use their current gas-powered car. They will also still have the right to buy used petrol cars.
Car manufacturers have already turned to electric vehicles: Ford produces a zero-emission van, for example. But they have doubts about how quickly California is pushing for those changes. Environmental activists find on the contrary that it does too little and too late. According to them, the reduction in emissions goes anyway by fewer cars, not just replacing gasoline vehicles with electric versions, which pose other types of problems, in particular for the recycling of used batteries. On the conservative side, many consider the plan unrealistic: electric cars are very expensive, $66,000 on average at the moment. Prices will fall, but for low-income households, this remains almost impossible.
Another more general problem is the risk of a shortage of materials for batteries, lithium for example. And then, as we saw, at the beginning of September, in the middle of a heat wave, the local authorities asked not to recharge their electric car between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. to reduce the pressure on the network. Not to mention chargers, which are more numerous in California than elsewhere, but not enough if the number of electric cars increases from less than 10% today to even 50% in 10 years. The State does not yet have the infrastructure to deal with a significant increase in electricity consumption. Will this be the case in 13 years?
In the 1970s, the Golden State obtained a kind of derogation to set its own emission standards, more stringent than at the federal level. Since automakers don’t like to make two versions of the same model, they tend to follow what California, the country’s top auto market, demands. Fifteen states, including Virginia, Washington and Massachusetts, more or less copy the programs in this sector. It should be the case once again.
Additionally, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden’s transportation minister, said he finds the idea “interesting“. We can therefore imagine that the federal state is also looking into the question, but any progress in this area will partly depend on the result of the presidential election in 2024. Republicans are less fond of the idea than Democrats. The road is long anyway: out of 250 million vehicles in the United States, for now, less than 1% are electric.