Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered California’s Air Resources Board to issue regulations requiring all new cars to be emission-free by 2035. The order creates powerful opportunities to accelerate the transition beyond polluting gasoline. It communicates to automakers, the oil industry, and drivers that the gas-car era has an end date, and that further investment in it will not be profitable. It signals to utilities, landlords, and the private sector that investments in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure will be rewarded with high utilization by many millions of EVs.
The directive builds momentum for other states to sunset sales of new gas cars. In Washington state, a bill was introduced this year requiring 100% of new cars to be electric by 2030, and a growing coalition of environmental, health, business, labor, and community organizations is supporting its passage in 2021. Hawaii and Massachusetts are considering similar bills, and each additional state joining this process will push the transition to electric vehicles faster.
Newsom’s order prompts local jurisdictions to lay the groundwork for a quick, smooth and equitable transition beyond gasoline. To prepare for the all-EV future, local governments must electrify public fleets and ensure everyone has convenient access to electric vehicle charging. Large employers must electrify their vehicles and enable their employees to stop using gasoline in connection with work. Local jurisdictions must collaborate with disadvantaged communities to implement gasoline-reduction measures that will be effective and just, including electric vehicle car share and lending programs, targeted EV incentives, and accessible, low-cost charging.
In Silicon Valley, the transition away from gasoline is well under way. Drivers are switching to EVs in record numbers, lured by lease deals costing under $150/month, generous incentives for EV charging, and a broadening selection of EV models, most with more than 200 miles of range, and many priced below the average new car price of $38,378.
Joint Venture Silicon Valley recently launched the Beyond Gasoline Initiative to partner with governments and businesses on policies and commitments toward rapid, equitable reductions in gasoline consumption. The initiative also aims to change the popular perception of gasoline from unobjectionable necessity to a dirty, deadly habit endangering the future of our children — similar to the transformation that occurred with smoking.
The implementation of Newsom’s order is not a sure thing. It will be challenged by naysayers who will claim “it’ll never work,” like those who said we could never put a man on the moon or move beyond the horse and buggy. It will be challenged by the oil industry, which will spend millions on misinformation campaigns and litigation to forestall the renewable energy future.
Opponents may even succeed in blocking the order. But here’s what they can’t block: the science showing that gasoline is a primary cause of the climate crisis and deadly air pollution; the fact that EVs are much cleaner than gas cars and getting cleaner – even taking into account manufacturing emissions and batteries; and data showing that EVs are already cheaper to fuel and maintain, and will have lower sticker prices within five years. They can’t block local governments, businesses, organizations, and people from moving the all-EV future forward as quickly as possible, nor can they stop a growing movement of people ready to move beyond gasoline.
Thanks for the boost, Gov. Newsom. Now let’s take the momentum from your order and leave gasoline behind for good.
Janelle London is the executive director of Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s Beyond Gasoline Initiative and co-executive director of the nonprofit Coltura, working for a gasoline-free America.