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Electric Vehicles in California - The Future is Here!

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

EVgo Fast Charging | Charging Station in California

Completely Replacing Gas-Powered Vehicles With EVs

In the 2020s, the global auto industry's major players readily acknowledge that millions of vehicles will transition from combustion engines to battery power. It is the only viable, scalable way to reduce on-road vehicle carbon emissions from well to wheel. California then announced an aggressive plan in April 2022 to mandate a steady increase in the sale of electric and zero-emission vehicles, the first step toward enacting a first-in-the-nation goal of prohibiting new gasoline-powered automobiles by 2035.

California’s Movement Towards A Greener Future

According to the California Air Resources Board's proposed rule, the state will require 35 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in the state by 2026 to be powered by batteries or hydrogen. In less than a decade, the state expects that 100 percent of all new car sales will be free of the fossil fuel emissions that are primarily responsible for global warming.

This latest proposal could be viewed as an important step forward in California's efforts to combat climate change and poor air quality. If the California Air Resources Board approves the regulations this summer, they will be the first in the world and could pave the way for national standards. According to the board,12.4 percent of new vehicles sold in California are zero emissions.

The California Air Resources Board's proposal would gradually increase the sale of new electric, hydrogen-powered, or plug-in hybrid vehicles to 100 percent by 2035. California accounts for approximately 11% of all new passenger car sales in the United States, giving the state significant clout in the auto industry.

How Strict Will California Be With This New Implementation?

While California did reach an EV purchase milestone, experts question whether the state is on track to meet its additional goal of 5 million EVs by 2030, with 100 percent zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035.

The executive order would prohibit the sale of new vehicles powered by an internal combustion engine, including gasoline, diesel, and hybrid electric vehicles, beginning January 1, 2035. That means that, from that point forward, the vast majority of new vehicles available to Californians will be fully electric vehicles or EVs.

Importantly, vehicles with internal combustion engines from the model year 2034 or earlier will be permitted to operate and be sold both within and outside of California. The executive order does not include any restrictions on these vehicles. Because of this, used fossil-fuel vehicles can still be sold and purchased within California after the order comes into place.

It's uncertain whether people moving to California after 2035 will be able to register their internal combustion vehicles. Exemptions for motorcycles, commercial, off-highway (non-registered), and motorsports vehicles are also not mentioned. These subtleties will almost certainly require further discussion.

However, Californians now have access to over 85 battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles. Today, we report nearly 80,000 chargers in California, which includes both public and public-shared chargers.

Is California Prepared?

As of now, California's infrastructure is woefully unprepared for the executive order of 2035. During recent summer heatwaves, utilities were forced to implement rolling blackouts to meet both hot-weather demands and fire danger. An electric vehicle can consume as much electricity as three households at its peak draw while charging. The electric grid clearly cannot handle the current shift to EVs, but a lot can change in 15 years.

There's no doubt that charging and battery technology will advance in the intervening years, but not nearly enough to compensate for infrastructure gaps. Solar energy may be the most promising solution. Individual homes outfitted with solar panels and battery storage (power walls) could reduce the strain on the power grid while also lowering EV operating costs.

California’s Commitment To Reducing Carbon Emissions Through EVs

There is indeed a desire on the part of the state to do more. According to a 2017 CARB report, transportation accounts for 40.1 percent of statewide greenhouse gas emissions. Passenger vehicles account for 28% of emissions, with heavy-duty vehicles accounting for the remaining 8.4%. Rail, ships, and aviation account for the remaining 3.7 percent. In comparison, the industrial sector emits 21.1 percent, while electricity generation emits 14.7%. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger vehicles will undoubtedly reduce emissions.

Climate change is one of the primary drivers behind executive order 2035. Rising temperatures are likely to have an impact on agriculture, as California produces one-third of the nation's vegetables and two-thirds of all fruits. The ripple effects of a loss in food production would be felt throughout the country. Climate change has also been blamed for an increase in large wildfires, which have wreaked havoc on California's prestigious wine industry in particular.

California is forging ahead rather than waiting for a broader national plan to combat climate change. History suggests that a few other states will follow suit at first, with the California order serving as a model for a federal initiative in the long run. Outside of the United States, 15 countries have made similar commitments to the executive order of 2035. It's also worth noting that if California were a country in its own right, it would have the world's fifth-largest economy. With that kind of financial power, the government has a lot of sways over consumer behavior.


California is at the forefront of the electric vehicle adoption trend in the United States, accounting for roughly half of all EVs on the road. As more residents and businesses across the state purchase EVs, electric infrastructure must support EV charging for electric vehicle drivers wherever they choose to live, work, and play.

Local action and leadership are critical to making transportation electrification a statewide reality. Recognizing the very real resource constraints that many California local governments face, there is a range of low-cost, high-value actions they can take to accelerate EV readiness and adoption both within and beyond their borders. Although the future of EVs is already within reach in the state of California, there is still a lot of room for improvement and opportunities for development.


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