With all eyes on Tesla and the general electrical vehicle (EV) market, there is much talk about how California is taking a big step toward fighting climate change. In an ever changing market, will this initiative be substantial, and how do the new developments affect the current car market and car enthusiasts?
Car culture in California can be seen at every stoplight and intersection. Hordes of muscle cars cruise together alongside packs of foreign-imported selections on a daily basis. This car-centric lifestyle only makes sense as California has the second-most racetracks and car clubs in the country, according to Chrysler capital.
In September 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that mandates all passenger cars and trucks be zero-emission by 2035. Feeling the pressure of California’s carbon pollution, this mandate aims to greatly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for 50% of greenhouse gasses in California, according to a press release from CA.GOV. Although the order requires all new vehicles to be zero-emission, residents can still own and sell gas-powered vehicles on the used market, according to the press release.
California currently leads the nation in zero-emission vehicles sold and joined 15 countries that are committed to phasing out gas-powered vehicles by signing the executive order. While the state is making changes to reduce pollution, its car sales market is the largest in the U.S., according to an article from Knoema.com.
Newsom traveled to meet Michael Macias, the owner of the millionth Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) sold in California, in February 2022. This event marked a milestone in the long battle against pollution in the Golden State.
“One of the reasons California is No. 1 (in EV sales) is because the state is the Holy Grail of car sales and it will continue to surge upward,” said Craig Wade, internet manager for a local dealership.
Wade has seen a change in sentiment toward EVs over the past few years. In 2022, there were more than 250,000 EV sales in California alone, according to CA.GOV.
Customers are researching, inquiring and buying more electric vehicles as the market expands and becomes normalized.
“Business is good,” Wade said. “The consumer and salesforce are learning together about the features, advantages and benefits of going electric as well as the federal and state tax credits.”
Approximately 17.7% of all new cars sold in California are zero-emission. This is a slight increase from the previously reported 12.4% in 2021. Even with the growing interest, Wade is still uncertain about Newsom meeting his goal by 2035.
“You will still have your die-hard, gas-powered car enthusiasts that love the way they smell, sound, move and perform,” Wade said.
As California moves toward a zero-emission future, the average car enthusiast may experience a hard transition as they move to the unknown technology. EVs have different parts that require car enthusiasts to take a creative approach toward modifying their vehicles. Battery packs are replacing the usual internal combustion engines, turbos are nonexistent at the moment and superchargers are not too common. Ira Jackson, car enthusiast and hobbyist, has mixed feelings toward the future of modifications and customization with EVs.
“You will not be able to add additional parts,” Jackson said. “But you will definitely be able to customize them and pay to unlock new performance modes like Tesla does now.”
While the intent is to shrink California’s carbon footprint, some believe a switch to EVs will not solve the issue at hand. Acknowledging the good intention behind the transition, Jackson said he believes the trade-off is not as profound as people are making it to be.
“From what I understand, there is still a decent amount of electricity that comes from fossil fuels,” Jackson said. “We are trading in the old for a new shinier thing that uses fossil fuels indirectly.”
Making the change to zero-emission vehicles can help in more ways than one. The cost of charging an EV is significantly cheaper than paying for a full tank of gas, according to Kelley Blue Book. In addition to this, certain programs like The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project are offering rebates from $1,000 to $7,000 for eligible buyers. Also, there is a peace of mind that consumers feel when they know they are contributing to a sustainable future.
Brittany Reitz, junior health science major, encourages people to think past the obvious cut in greenhouse pollution and to understand the other effects of switching to a zero-emission vehicle.
“EVs are expensive, but if a person has the means to buy one, I would suggest they do,” Reitz said. “Not only does it help the environment, it can help to save money with the elimination of gas.”
As California continues on its zero-emission mission, one thing is certain: Change is on the way. The state’s government has taken serious steps toward a more environmentally conscious future, and the effects are beginning to ramp up.