Oregon bans sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035

Gas-powered cars, light-duty trucks and SUVs are on their way out in Oregon.

Policymakers for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality on Monday approved a rule that bans the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger vehicles in Oregon by 2035.

The effort comes as Oregon aims to cut climate-warming emissions by 50% by 2035 and by 90% by 2050. The transportation sector accounts for almost 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon and is the biggest source of pollution in the US

The new rule, based on vehicle emission standards adopted by California in August, requires car manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles – electric cars, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – as part of their total sales , starting with 35 percent in 2026 and increasing to 100 percent by 2035.

The rule allows for sales of plug-in hybrid vehicles, which run primarily on electricity but also are able to run on gas, to provide flexibility for Oregonians, especially those in rural areas with fewer charging stations.

The ban on gas cars does not affect cars already on the road and does not require Oregonians to stop buying gas-powered vehicles. Used gas-powered cars will continue to be available for sale within the state. Customers who want a new car that runs on gasoline will have to shop out of state.

But more than a dozen states also are looking to follow suit. Oregon will be the third state to adopt the standard. Vermont and Washington just adopted a similar standard. The Clean Air Act allows Oregon and other states to either follow federal vehicle emission standards or align with California’s more stringent rules.

The new rule also requires manufacturers to increase access to affordable zero-emission vehicles to low-income households and communities of color. It offers incentives to manufacturers to sell electric cars to community car share programs, to produce lower-cost zero-emission cars and to direct used electric cars to dealerships participating in low-income assistance programs.

“These rules are a support mechanism, they are not the driving force. They would create a signal in Oregon: Bring your zero emission cars here, bring the infrastructure, and for the grid, get it ready,” said Leah Feldon, Department of Environmental Quality interim director.

The Environmental Quality Commission, which oversees the department, voted to approve the rule at a special meeting. Commissioners amended the rule to include more frequent check-ins starting in 2028 to evaluate the program.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to put ourselves on a strategic and more equitable path,” said Commissioner Amy Schlusser. “If we don’t adopt the rule, the system will still electrify. We just won’t have the same options and we won’t upgrade the grid in a strategic proactive way.”

Commissioner Greg Addington, who voted against the rule adoption, acknowledged many Oregonians, especially in rural parts of the state, do not support the rule and do not have access to electric vehicle charging.

“There are a lot of people in the state who don’t get where this is going,” Addington said.

The new requirements will help Oregon meet its goals, adopted by the Legislature in 2019, of at least 90% of new vehicles sold annually to be zero emission by 2035. Those goals came with no consequences attached, while the newly adopted rule includes penalties to manufacturers for non-compliance.

“By creating a regulatory certainty for manufacturers, EV charging providers and utilities, it sets a clear path forward for the future of zero-emission passenger cars and trucks in Oregon,” said Rachel Sakata, senior air quality planner at the Department of Environmental Quality .

It will take time for Oregonians to retire all of their gas-powered cars. By 2035, about half of the passenger vehicles on Oregon roads will still be gas-powered, Sakata said. To limit their pollution, the rule includes more stringent emission standards for the remaining gas cars.

To make sure electric cars are durable and a worthy replacement to gas-powered ones, the new rule requires electric vehicles to meet certain technical requirements, including a minimum range of 150 miles, a parts and battery warranty and a fast charge capability, among others .

The Environmental Quality Commission received more than 700 comments on the rule. Five-hundred of them were in support, Sakata said.

Oregonians who spoke out against the rule during the public comment period cited the expense of electric cars and lack of charging stations. Sakata said the new standard will expand the market for new and used zero emission vehicles and bring down prices. She also said the upfront costs are offset by decreased operations and maintenance costs.

Low- and moderate-income Oregonians are eligible for rebates to buy electric cars.

Oregon has over 2,000 public and private electric vehicle chargers across the state, with more being built in the next few years, Sakata said. She said she expects the infrastructure to grow and for the electric grid capacity to be sufficient to support additional electricity needs from expanded electric car sales.

Department officials also said that while for now the electricity that fuels electric vehicles is still produced chiefly by fossil fuels, including coal, utilities are moving toward cleaner sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric.

House Bill 2021 requires the state’s investor-owned utilities – Portland General Electric and Pacific Power – to reach zero emissions by 2040 and prohibits any utility expansion or new construction of power plants within Oregon.

– Gosia Wozniacka; gwozniacka@oregonian.com; @gosiawozniacka

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