California could ban all fossil fueled vehicles after 2040

A new bill would require all vehicles sold in the state to be zero emission.

Electric cars being charged in a street. (CREDIT: Getty Images)
Electric cars being charged in a street. (CREDIT: Getty Images)

In 2017, for the first time in more than four decades, cars — not power plants — became the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States.

Now, one of the country’s most progressive environmental states is looking to take on emissions from the transportation sector by considering a ban on fossil fueled vehicles after 2040.

A bill introduced on Wednesday in the California State Assembly by Democratic Rep. Phil Ting would require all new cars sold in the state after 2040 to be zero emission, in an effort to help the state reach its lofty emissions reduction goals of a 40 percent decrease below 1990 levels by 2030. The zero emission ban would mean that even hybrid vehicles would be prohibited under the new bill.

“California has long led the nation in promoting environmental protection and public health through visionary policies and technological innovations,” Ting said in a press statement. “It’s time that we clear the path for emissions-free transportation and take significant steps to achieve our ambitious emissions reduction goals.”

If the bill were to pass, California would join countries like the United Kingdom and France, which have recently announced plans to phase out gasoline and diesel powered cars by 2040. Norway, which has plans to ban the sale of fossil fueled vehicles by 2025, has seen the use of electric vehicles (EVs) skyrocket in recent years, with EVs making up 37 percent of the country’s car market as of 2017.


In China, a push to reduce carbon emissions has caused the government to halt production of more than 500 car models that do not meet the country’s fuel economy standards. China is currently the world’s largest market for EVs, and accounted for more than half of the global sale of EVs in the third quarter of 2017.

California already has the largest EV market in the United States, and claims to be the second-largest EV market in the world behind China. The state currently has 300,000 electric vehicles on the road, with plans to increase that number substantially in the coming years: as part of the state’s emissions reduction plan, California aims to have 1.5 million EVs on the road by 2030.

California’s cities are also helping the state’s push to electrify its transportation sector, with cities like Los Angeles working to transition its municipal public transportation fleet from natural gas to electric.

Still, fossil fueled cars and trucks remain a primary source of emissions for the state, with transportation accounting for 37 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2014.

“We’re at an inflection point: We’ve got to address the harmful emissions that cause climate change,” Ting said in a statement. “Achieving the goal of electrification of transportation is crucial for the health of our people and the planet.”

California has a history of going further than the rest of the country when it comes to environmental standards and vehicles. For years, California has received a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency that allows the state’s to set more stringent standards for emissions limits from vehicles than the national standards. Because California is such a large market for cars in the United States, automakers have essentially been forced to create cars that adhere to California’s stricter limits, regardless of what the national standards might be — a move that, in turn, helps drive down vehicle emissions nationally.


During his confirmation hearing, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was hesitant to confirm that the EPA would continue issuing California this waiver, though the EPA has not yet taken any action on the matter. The EPA has denied California’s waiver only once, during the Bush administration.

Under Pruitt, the EPA has begun backing away from more stringent national standards on vehicle emissions, working to rollback both vehicle emission standards created during the Obama administration and pollution limits on heavy trucks built with old diesel engines.