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California Leads the Nation: Regulation for 100% Zero-emission New Car Sales

On August 25, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to adopt the Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II) regulation. The historic action will require a complete transition to 100 percent new zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) sales by 2035, setting a precedent for other states to follow while providing significant health benefits and saving thousands of California lives thanks to cleaner air.

The ACC II rule is a critical step toward significantly reducing emissions in California to meet the state’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. The transportation sector is the number one source of pollution and emissions in California—and the country. California is the largest auto market in the U.S. and continues to have some of the dirtiest air in the country. Under the Clean Air Act, California has the unique authority to set more stringent vehicle pollution standards than the federal government. Other states also can adopt California’s standards. In fact, 17 states have adopted California’s predecessor Clean Cars Standard that applies to cars sold through 2025.

The ACC II rule requires automakers to accelerate the electrification of their new vehicle offerings, starting with a 35 percent new ZEV sales requirement in 2026, reaching 68 percent by 2030, and meeting the target of 100 percent by 2035. The rule also requires improvements in emissions reductions from gasoline powered cars that will be sold up until 2035. 

According to CARB, by 2037, the regulation will deliver a 25 percent reduction in smog-causing pollution from light-duty vehicles to meet federal air quality standards, benefiting all Californians—especially communities along freeways and other heavily traveled thoroughfares. And the American Lung Association says that with last week’s action, California could “achieve $169 billion in public health benefits—including preventing more than 15,000 premature deaths—by 2050.”

California’s action cements the Golden State’s leadership alongside governments around the world that are leading on climate and clean air regulation. Meanwhile, within the U.S., California is the undeniable leader in advancing ZEV policy. 

Thanks to the advocacy work of the California Clean Cars coalition—comprising a diverse group of EF grantees across environmental justice, health, scientific, faith, business, labor, and environmental organizations—the ACC II rule is stronger than the original CARB proposal, and includes voluntary provisions that push automakers to deploy vehicles in frontline communities that bear the brunt of air pollution. At the CARB hearing, an accompanying resolution established a stakeholder working group to develop additional strategies to ensure ZEVs are accessible to all Californians, especially low-income residents, too often burdened by transportation pollution and climate impacts, who often lack equitable access to zero-emission cars.