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New York State 2035 gas car ban passes through legislature, onto Cuomo

New York will join the list of states signaling an end to new gas vehicle sales, as a bill banning their sale after 2035 has advanced through the state legislature. It now heads to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk where it is expected to be signed.

This bill makes New York State the second US state to pass a gas car ban legislatively, behind Washington State, which set a 2030 target. California and Massachusetts have also set 2035 targets for the end of gas car sales, though those states made their commitments through executive action by their respective governors, Gavin Newsom (D) and Charlie Baker (R).

The New York bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 110-40 with all Democrats and three Republicans voting in favor, and passed the Senate in a party-line 44-18 vote. Democrats have a greater than two-thirds majority in both houses in New York, so while this bill has not yet been signed by the governor, there is little chance that it won’t become law.

The bill never uses the language “electric,” or “gas,” rather “100% zero-emission.” While battery electric vehicles are the most popular kind of zero emission vehicle available, other zero emission transportation (fuel cells and the like) would still qualify under this bill.

Like other gas car bans, the bill seeks to ban the sale of new non-zero-emission passenger cars and trucks in the state of New York, starting in 2035. Thus, cars sold before then will still be allowed to operate after 2035. The bill further specifies that all medium- and heavy-duty vehicles must be zero emission by 2045, and that off-road vehicles should be zero-emission by 2035 “where feasible.”

The “where feasible” language applies to heavy duty and off-road vehicles, but not to passenger vehicles. This suggests that there may be carve-outs for some specific applications, but passenger vehicles will not receive any carve-outs.

The goal of the bill is “to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from the transportation sector.” New York State has previously set goals to reduce statewide emissions by 85% by 2050 and reach net zero emissions in all sectors of the state’s economy, and this bill is intended to help achieve those goals.

In order to achieve the goals laid out in this bill, it directs state agencies to develop plans to support the deployment of zero-emission vehicles. Specific regulations and plans will be drawn up to support the transition to zero-emission vehicles, with focus on supporting affordable charging options, safe infrastructure for bicycle and pedestrian options, and infrastructure to support heavy duty zero emissions vehicles.

New York is already the lowest-emitting state per capita, and it has a pretty clean electrical grid. While natural gas does make up the largest chunk – 37% – of their electricity generation, a majority of New York’s electricity is generated by zero-emissions sources. In particular, upstate New York is largely fueled by hydroelectric power, much of that from Quebec, which is both zero-carbon and one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation. Downstate, the aging Indian Point nuclear plant, is set to be turned off by the end of the month due to advancements in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Because of this, an electric car fueled in New York is among the lowest-emission personal transportation options available in the US. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a lifetime analysis shows an average EV fueled on grid electricity in upstate New York emits the same amount of CO2 as a theoretical 231 mpg gas car, which makes it about 10 times cleaner than the average new gas car. By 2035, as New York continues to decarbonize its electrical grid and more car owners get solar roofs, this number will surely improve even more.

That clean electrical grid also means that transportation makes up a disproportionately higher percentage of New York’s emissions. Transportation is the largest source of US greenhouse gas emissions, around 28% of total emissions. But in New York, that number is even higher at 36%, with 20% of total emissions coming from personal transportation. That’s a big chunk, so cleaning up transportation, and fueling it with clean electricity, is certainly a great way for New York to make a big dent in their overall emissions.


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