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California Is Done with the Gasoline Engine

Sebastian Blanco
Photo credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN - Getty Images

From Car and Driver

  • According to a new decision announced Friday, California state agencies can no longer buy gasoline-powered sedans for their fleets.
  • Starting in January, buying vehicles from companies that don't recognize the state's power to enforce clean-air standards is also verboten, and that means Toyota and General Motors, plus eight other automakers.
  • Oh, and California is suing the EPA, too.

California has announced two big changes in the way the state government buys its vehicles. First, the California Department of General Services (DGS) says that state agencies can no longer buy "sedans solely powered by an internal-combustion engine," with an exception made for some public safety vehicles. Second, state agencies cannot purchase vehicles from an automaker that does not "recognize the California Air Resources Board (CARB)'s authority to set greenhouse gas and zero-emission-vehicle standards." The first rule goes into effect now, and the second will take effect on January 1, 2020.

The automakers that recognize CARB's authority are those who have signed a deal with the state that they will follow CARB's stricter fuel-economy rules and not the relaxed national standards that the Trump administration is pushing for. Only four automakers have signed such a deal: Honda, Ford, Volkswagen, and BMW. Other automakers have voiced support for Trump's "one national policy" on fuel economy, which leads to lower average national MPG standards than were agreed to under the Obama administration. The public has noticed, with Toyota generating a backlash on Twitter for siding with Trump instead of California.

Big money is at stake. CalMatters says that the state spent $74 million on its fleet purchases in 2018. The big losers are the companies that did not sign a state deal but see a lot of state fleet sales. That includes Chevrolet—California spent $27 million buying Chevy vehicles last year—Fiat Chrysler brands ($11 million), and Toyota (more than $3.6 million).

Of the four companies that have struck a deal with California, Ford could be the big winner, since the state spent more on Ford vehicles ($18 million) than any other automaker except GM last year.

DGS calls itself the business manager for the state of California and is the entity in the California government that oversees a statewide vehicle fleet. DGS released a statement that says these new regulations are just one of many ways it intends to reduce or displace "the consumption of petroleum products by the state fleet."

DGS said that its various efforts to clean up the state vehicle fleet have resulted in those vehicles using 8.6 million fewer gallons of petroleum fuel per year now than it did during the baseline year of 2003. This was accompanied by a rise of approximately 2685 percent in alternative-fuel use over the same time frame. Buying cleaner vehicles was part of this project, along with reducing the overall number of vehicles, education, and new fuel-consumption reporting requirements. California has a dedicated "drive green" website with a directory of alternative-fuel fleet vehicles for state agencies to shop from.

Photo credit: California Department of General Services

Also yesterday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the state would lead a multistate coalition in a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency in its "attempt to revoke the portions of a waiver it granted California in 2013 that permit the state to implement its greenhouse gas (GHG) and zero-emission-vehicle (ZEV) standards." Thirteen states follow California's standards, in whole or in part, but 24 total states are suing, plus the cities of New York and Los Angeles.


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