By Peter Glenn
In response to another record setting year of California wildfires that burned 4 million acres of forests, California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed an executive order banning the sale of new gas vehicles starting in 2035, stating:
“For too many decades, we have allowed cars to pollute the air that our children and families breathe. You deserve to have a car that doesn’t give your kids asthma. Our cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse — and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”
Banning anything is bound to stir controversy, and over the past few weeks, my startup EV Life has fielded hundreds of questions and objections to the ban.
So, in the context of these questions, let’s explore why you, the American driver, should be optimistic about the implications.
1. You can still keep your gas car (but it may depreciate faster).
California’s ban prevents the sale of new gas vehicles only. No one is going to take your current gas car away. No one will prevent you from buying a used gas vehicle. But you may want to think twice about the depreciation value of your gas vehicle going forward.
California is sending a clear signal to consumers that electric vehicles are the future of transportation. Combined with demand for EVs growing rapidly, this executive order will likely depreciate the value of gas vehicles faster than you think.
2. Your electric car will save you more than $1,000 per year.
According to a recent study by Consumer Reports, electric cars already offer big savings over gas vehicles. EV drivers can expect to save $800 to $1,000 per year in fuel costs versus equivalent gasoline cars. Additionally, electric vehicles have fewer moving parts, which amounts to around $4,600 in savings over the life of the vehicle. Plus, you’ll never need to go to the dealer for an oil change, transmission flush, or timing belt ever again.
3. Your air will be much cleaner.
Transportation is the leading cause of both air pollution and climate change in the US and California, representing more than 40% of the state’s carbon emissions.
The state has been busy passing bold policies to curb transportation emissions:
In August, California passed a zero carbon mandate for trucks & ships by 2045, which contribute to half of the state’s transportation emissions.
In September, California’s new gas passenger car ban means that the average California driver will shift to electric cars and reduce carbon emissions by 80%.
By eliminating California’s two largest sources of carbon emissions and air pollution, you will see more of the “COVID clean air” reported during the first weeks of the COVID-19 shutdowns. However, beautiful blue skies are secondary to the health benefits.
From an environmental justice perspective, California’s black and latino communities breathe 43% and 39% more deadly PM2.5 air pollution than white Californians, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists study. Air pollution increases the risk of death from upper respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19.
Reducing air pollution by requiring 100% of new cars sold to be electric by 2035 is one of the best ways to address both climate change and environmental justice.
4. Electric car technology is already cleaner than gas vehicles.
Many people have asked me, “Does California have enough clean energy for EV charging? What’s the point in banning gas cars if we switch to dirty electricity?”
The good news is that on California electricity, switching from gasoline to an electric car reduces carbon emissions by 81%.
The better news is that according to research, even charging on dirty, coal-fired power plants, EVs emit fewer emissions than gasoline cars. Even charging your EV on the dirtiest coal-fired power plant in China, your emissions are lower than driving a similar gasoline-powered car.
5. You (or someone you love) will find a new job in the electric car industry.
Today, electric vehicles already represent California’s second largest export, valued at $7 billion, creating nearly 300,000 jobs last year.
Also, according to a new report by New Energy Nexus, one of the greatest opportunities for clean energy jobs in America is investing in a “Lithium Valley” in Southern California. California has the natural lithium resources required to drive America’s EV revolution while creating thousands of jobs and injecting billions into the economy.
Also, with American companies Tesla, General Motors, and Rivian leading the development of electric cars globally, California and the US are poised for an EV manufacturing boom.
6. Public EV chargers will soon be everywhere.
One of the biggest areas for new investments is the installation of public electric charging stations. Electric car chargers are easy to install if you own a home, but with high real estate costs, only 56% of California residents own their own home (the 48th lowest rate ownership rate in the nation).
To serve the millions of Californians who live in apartments, the state will need to invest heavily in EV charging stations to ensure all drivers have affordable access to charging near their homes.
In August, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a $437 million investment of ratepayer money to install 38,000 public chargers in the next 5 years. Expect even more public-private partnerships investing in EV charging stations soon.
7. States (and automakers) will follow California’s lead.
As California goes, so goes the nation. It is the largest car market in the country. It has been championing clean vehicle policies for decades, and the 13 “zero emission states” that follow California’s standards represent about 40% of the U.S. auto market.
Before California’s ban, 9 countries had already announced plans to ban gas cars by 2035, including The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, and the UK. These bans threaten to regulate gasoline out of existence like freon, and traditional gas carmakers like Ford and GM are already taking notice.
Expect more US states to announce gasoline vehicle bans in the coming months, and possibly a national conversation on banning new gas vehicles sometime soon.
8. EV technology will improve rapidly in 15 years.
Electric cars make up 2% of US car sales. How can California possibly make the shift to 100% new EVs by 2035?
Electric cars and plug-in hybrids actually make up around 10% of new cars sold in California today. It’s where half of the country’s EVs were sold in 2019.
Also, consumer choice and technology advancements will accelerate EV adoption faster than you think.
- There are 50 EV models available in the US today, increasing to 100 models by end of 2021.
- The battery ranges of EVs, like Tesla’s 390 mile Model S, are already beginning to exceed range on comparable gas models.
- Battery prices are plummeting at faster rates than expected. EVs typically cost 30% more than gas vehicles up front, but are now forecast to reach price parity by 2024 (one year ahead of schedule).
In summary, if we can put a man on the moon in less than a decade with 1960s technology, imagine how much more California’s executive order can accelerate clean energy innovation to make life better for all of us in the next 15 years.
Peter Glenn is a cleantech entrepreneur and co-founder of EV Life.
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