Since the news broke yesterday about Gavin Newsom signing an executive order that would ban the sale of new internal combustion powered cars for personal transportation by 2035, I’ve been trying to discuss with people I know how this isn’t that big of a deal if you still like to burn dinosaurs by then.
Now, by the time we arrive at 2035, it may no longer even make sense to own an internal combustion vehicle anyway unless you just like having the ability to go to very remote places where there may not be supporting infrastructure and need range and the ability to carry additional fuel to greatly extend your range. For the average person, the cost to power an electric car as well as maintenance costs are almost assuredly going to be far less expensive than a liquid fueled car.
But, that’s not the point of this discussion today. Car guys all over the country went off on how California is such a socialist nightmare because of such a rule like this. I’m here today to tell you why it’s not near as crazy as you think.
First off, there needs to be the recognition that this ban is for NEW car sales only. This means the used cars currently here can be purchased and resold as they always have. Note the article linked below
This also almost certainly means that you can bring in used cars from other states—even ones built after model year 2035 powered by internal combustion engines—and successfully register and smog them in state.
I’m sure you haven’t heard this argued before and are wondering how I jumped to that conclusion. One simple word: precedent.
California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) has long been the most aggressive regulating body in instituting increasingly stringent emissions rules. One of the more aggressive changes happened in the mid 2000s with the switch to tier 2 rules. The EPA would go on to adopt tier 2 about 3 model years later.
I bring this up specifically because I’m very familiar with what happened. CARB’s adoption of tier 2 starting with model year 2004 left a small segment of cars out in the cold, most notably diesel passenger cars built between model years 2004-2006. The EPA would adopt tier 2 for the 2007 and up model years, which also coincided with a national change to Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel, which was necessary for a new piece of emissions equipment that tier 2 rules required for diesels: particulate filters.
Almost no one had particulate filters implemented in the U.S. for the 2004-5 model years. So, there were several diesel vehicles that were “45 state compliant” and were only sold as new cars in states that had not yet adopted CARB’s tier 2 rules. This includes various VW TDI models in these model years, Mercedes had their E320 CDI in 2005-6 was another one, I can also think of the Jeep Liberty CRD as being another.
But, there’s a LOT of model year 2004-6 non-tier 2 diesels in California. If they weren’t allowed to be sold as new in the state, where did they come from?
The used car market, of course. California recognizes it cannot successfully regulate the used car market very easily and voters also lobbied to make them relax rules regarding the bringing in of non-CARB used cars.
They did make some rules regarding the earliest such cars can be brought into the state. They had to have been registered in an individual’s name (not just a dealer’s) and to have a minimum of 7500 miles on the odometer before they could be brought into the state and resold. That’s it. That’s the only hurdle.
Being a part of the TDIClub forums for as long as I have (since 2006) I became familiar with a personality on the forum who was in Southern California and had a used car dealership that focused almost exclusively on buying and selling TDIs. And during those few years where California could not get TDIs, there was a huge increasing demand for them as alternative fuels became popular and as fuel prices skyrocketed starting with hurricane Katrina and subsequent shortages for other reasons between 2005-2008, it took the 2008 credit crunch to bring prices back down from the stratosphere. So, extra efficient cars were in high demand since for so many, the additional fuel cost was too much for their budgets.
I heard stories from other members who he paid to have them fly to out of state dealers, pick up a car he paid for and drive it back. Some of them might not have quite had 7500 miles on them yet, but they would by the time they were driven into the state... And such was the demand for those cars at the time, he was able to nearly ask full MSRP for a used car, because it was easier for people to buy an overpriced, lightly used car locally than to deal with the hassle of flying themselves out of state to buy a car and then drive back.
So, given the precedent already set, I don’t think California is going to change this rule either. But the difference now might be that the economics of buying an internal combustion engine might not make sense like it did to buy a quirky Euro diesel car with high fuel prices and electric cars not yet a feasible reality for those who drive a lot in the mid 2000s were. Electric cars, as mentioned, will be cheaper to operate, perform better and require less maintenance. The economics of that, once supporting infrastructure is implemented and the power grid is bolstered sufficiently to handle the increase in demand, will make it so that buying any internal combustion vehicle just might not make sense to most new car buyers at that time, which will make this new rule by Governor Newsom moot.
I suspect Newsom already knows this. But there are more radical political groups in the state who think his new rule isn’t aggressive enough, but being a typical politician, he’s at least throwing them a little bit of a bone to at least let them know that he hears them. That’s really all this is.
At the end of the day, it’s still not a big deal to those of us who still at that time want to burn dinosaurs. If there is a particularly interesting gas or diesel burner that some enthusiast in California still really “has to have,” they will still have ways of getting that vehicle and successfully registering and operating it in state.
It might not make logical financial sense to the average car buyer, but us enthusiasts do a lot of things that don’t make good financial sense because we’re letting our emotions and personal attachments run the show.
Not the end of the world.