California Hopes to Ban the Combustion Engine Within Years—But is that too Soon?

Matt Charnock
Matt Charnock
California Hopes to Ban the Combustion Engine Within Years—But is that too Soon?

California has long been an early adopter of technological and infrastructural advancements. (Look no further than internet search and solar grid work for evidence of just that.) But The Golden State’s proposed ban on combustion engines might be coming a bit too soon.

There’s no denying the fact that climate change is occurring at a potentially catastrophic rate. And, yes, while car emissions are contributing to those melting ice caps and now seasonal 100-year floods, it’s only around one-fifth of all greenhouse emissions produced by the United States. Coal-sourced electric, agriculture and forestry, and industrial production take first, second, and third place, respectively, in terms of emitters.

Nevertheless, that less-than-quarter percentile is enough to sway Californian Governor Jerry Brown to lay the conversational groundwork for a ban on all combustion engines within the state.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” said Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, in an interview to Bloomberg, referring to China’s planned phase-out of fossil-fuel vehicle sales. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.”

This wouldn’t be the first instance of California siding with the Government of China. Earlier this year, the state pledged to uphold the mandates made within the Paris Climate Change, forming a strong relationship with the Chinese in the fight against rising CO2 emission. However, this most recent rebuke of gasoline and diesel powertrains seems to pontificate a bit too forward into the future.

“There are people who believe, including who work for me, that you could stop all sales of new internal-combustion cars by 2030. Some people say 2035, some people say 2040,” Nichols later added. “It’s awfully hard to predict any of that with precision, but it doesn’t appear to be out of the question.”

But to say that change could come as early as 2020 is not only irresponsible, it’s downright impractical. As of now, electric cars make up only about 7% of all the cars sold in the United States. While more than 50% of all those cars currently reside in the Celebrity State, that still only accounts for a quarter-of-a-million. To put that number in context: there are 20 million cars currently registered in the state of California.

As of today, the number of EV-charging stations in the state pales in comparison to the amount needed to fully switch over to a completely zero-emissions vehicle platform. (And without even mentioning the poultry recharging rates of most modern-day EVs, most of which taking hours and hours to reach full capacity.)

(Feature image, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)