For years, auto industry observers have suggested that it’s a matter of when — not if — the sector moves from predominantly gasoline-fueled to battery-electric or other types of zero-emission vehicles.
The exact date, however, has remained nebulous as automakers work to develop cars that can meet the demands of American commuters and travelers. The Biden administration set a goal for electric vehicles to account for half of all new vehicles sold in the country by the beginning of the next decade, and aimed to accomplish it with a series of financial incentives and infrastructure upgrades, rather than mandates.
The actual end of the internal combustion engine era, however, could be looming just a few years later.
California regulators, responding to a governor’s executive order issued in 2020, earlier this year voted to require that all new vehicles sold in the state be emission-free by 2035, and that deadline now extends along the entire Pacific Coast after regulators in Oregon and Washington followed suit.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that both states on Monday officially adopted rules that would align their own policies with the standard in California — banning new gas- and diesel-powered cars, trucks and SUVs in 12 years’ time.
Public hearings held in the months leading up to the vote raised concerns about consumers being forced to buy more expensive vehicles, but an Oregon report projected that EVs — with the exception of pickups — would reach cost parity with gas-powered vehicles two years before the deadline. Federal and state incentives could bring the cost down further.
Oregon regulators, however, focused more on the need to curb transportation sector emissions in order to reduce the state’s overall carbon output.
Although the moves in Oregon and Washington could provide additional motive for the industry to go all-electric, the writing may have already been on the wall: a state the size of California has the ability to force almost any industry’s hand, and, as exemplified by the spat over vehicle emissions in recent years, automakers that defy California risk being shut out of the nation’s largest vehicle market altogether.