New York Bans Sale of Fossil Fuel Vehicles From 2034 Onward

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By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

The state of New York this week passed a law that bans the sale of fossil fuel powered vehicles after 2034. This deadline applies to all new passenger vehicles, making New York the second state to move forward with such a plan, following California’s lead.

Last September, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order directing the California Air Resources Board to develop regulations to mandate zero emissions for all new passenger cars and trucks by 2035.

My first impression is that the time frame for implementing New York’s legislation looks lax – especially given the gravity of the climate change crisis – although I appreciate that infrastructure must be built to accommodate electric vehicles, and that existing fossil fuel vehicles cannot be replaced overnight.

Interesting Engineering is more impressed with New York’s action:

The law is a major step up compared to President Biden’s executive order last month that aimed for 50 percent of all vehicle sales to be electric by 2030. It is also going quite ambitious given only one percent of all vehicle sales in New York are currently electric, Ars Technica reported. Nevertheless, the setting of a deadline, even more than a decade away, should set into motion the process to fully electrify transportation.

Interestingly, the law does not just limit itself to light-duty or passenger vehicles but also includes heavy-duty vehicles, whose development is still in nascent stages. By setting a 2045 deadline, the state is moving towards its ambitious goal of reducing 85 percent of overall emissions by 2050. New York plans to use California’s Advanced Clean Trucks Rule as a template to provide truck manufacturers an annual sales target for zero-emission vehicles. Last year, California became the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of fossil-fuel cars by 2035, and New York seems to be following the example.

A press release from newly-installed New York State Governor Kathy Hochul’s office provides further details about the New York plan:

Under the new law, new off-road vehicles and equipment sold in New York are targeted to be zero-emissions by 2035, and new medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles by 2045. The law also requires the development of a zero-emissions vehicle development strategy by 2023, which will be led by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to expedite the implementation of the State policies and programs necessary to achieve the law’s new goals.


Using California’s Advanced Clean Trucks Rule as a template, the proposed regulation would require truck manufacturers to transition to clean, electric zero-emission vehicles. Truck manufacturers would be required to meet a certain annual sales percentage of zero-emission trucks, which will vary among vehicle weight classes, beginning with model year 2025. By the 2035 model year, at least 55 percent of all new Class 2b-3 pickup trucks and vans, 75 percent of all new Class 4-8 trucks, and 40 percent of all new Class 7-8 tractors sold in New York State will be zero-emission. The proposed regulation provides medium- and heavy-duty truck manufacturers with several compliance options and would require a one-time reporting from applicable truck fleets.

Charging Infrastructure

Making a smooth transition away from fossil fuel powered vehicles is dependent on developing necessary infrastructure for charging such vehicles – both at their home bases and when on the road. Ars Technica highlighted some key considerations:

Convincing the public to buy EVs requires more than just incentives, of course. For many people, charging remains a hurdle in either a physical or psychological sense (or both). The state will have to roll out a significant fast-charging network to facilitate long-distance travel, and it will have to encourage cities to install slower, level-2 charging infrastructure to allow renters and condo dwellers to charge. Such a network would include the usual places, like grocery stores and shopping malls, but also streets and parking garages.

Curbside charging would be especially important in New York City, where on-street parking is the rule rather than the exception. By 2050, the city predictsit will need 800,000 level-2 chargers and 60,000 fast chargers. And given that the Big Apple is home to over 40 percent of the state’s population, solving that problem is likely on the top of state agencies’ lists.

New York City has already begun experimenting with curbside charging, installing 120 chargers that EV owners can pay to use by the hour. The initial installations were sited based on projected demand, community input, and geographic diversity. Business owners can request that a charger be installed in front of their building, too. Parking spaces in front of the EV service equipment are reserved for actively charging vehicles. Cars not charging can be ticketed.

Another solution would be to piggyback EV chargers on streetlight poles. Los Angeles has already installed over 430 of them scattered throughout the city, and London has converted over 1,300 lampposts to add EV charging. Kansas City is trialing the setup, too, with plans to install 30–60 by the end of the year.

States in Driver’s Seat

States have been primary drivers in pressing the federal government to enact laws and regulations for phasing out fossil fuel powered vehicles, beginning under the Trump administration and continuing now that Biden is president. Per Hochul’s press release:

In 2020, New York, 14 additional states, and the District of Columbia agreed through a Memorandum of Understanding to develop an action plan to accelerate the electrification of buses and trucks, including to consider adoption of the California regulation. Participating states committed to work together to accelerate the market for zero emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including delivery trucks, box trucks, and buses. The collective goal is to ensure that 100 percent of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales be zero emission vehicles by 2050, with an interim target of 30 percent zero-emission vehicle sales in these categories of vehicles by 2030.

In April 2021, New York and 11 other states asked President Biden to put the U.S. on a path to ensure all vehicles sold in the country are zero-emissions. The letter asks the federal government to set standards to ensure that all new passenger cars and light duty trucks are zero-emission by 2035, and that medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles are zero-emissions by 2045. The states also encouraged the Biden Administration to advance new electric vehicle tax credits, enhanced existing electric vehicle tax credits, funding for investment in charging, and fueling infrastructure and other reforms.

In addition to California, Washington state has considered a ban on fossil fuel powered cars – thus far to no avail. Per Ars Technica:

Washington state attempted to pass a law earlier this year with a sunset date of 2030. The law made it through the legislature but was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, who was concerned that the sunset date was tied to the implementation of a road-usage charge. The zero-emissions vehicle mandate, he said, was too important to be tied to other initiatives.

The Bottom Line

I understand that the advantages of electric vehicles have been overhyped. A far more sustainable policy would be to build a better public transportation system. But that’s not the road California and New York have chosen.

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