California Just Killed Dirt Bikes as We Know Them

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You may have already seen the news from yesterday, where California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that will require all new cars and passenger trucks sold in the Golden State to be zero-emission vehicles by the year 2035. 

The order also goes on to say that the state will phase out all new medium and heavy-duty trucks that are not zero-emissions by the year 2045, thus setting up the state to push electric vehicles onto its roadways in a big way.

There is a third provision in this executive order though, and it is getting far less attention than the other two, but it will greatly impact the motorcycle industry.

This is because Gov. Newsom’s executive order also says that by 2035 California will ban the sale of all new off-road vehicles that are not zero-emissions, where feasible.

Effectively, California has just set an expiration date on the sale of new dirt bikes, side-by-sides, and ATVs within its borders.

Before we get too much further, it should be pointed out that this executive order applies only to the sale of new vehicles, and does not stop one from owning a gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle, nor does it stop one’s ability to sell a used gasoline or diesel-powered vehicle to a private party.

Also important to note is that plated dual-sport motorcycles, along with all street-legal motorcycles, would be exempt from this executive order, as motorcycles are not specifically targeted by the order’s mandates.

What it does stop though is the ability for manufacturers to build and sell new non-zero emissions vehicles in the State of California, including what is being sold by the powersports industry for off-road use.

There is a major caveat in the executive order though, and that is that CARB is directed to “act consistently with technological feasibility and cost-effectiveness” in implementing the order’s directives.

This could create a scenario where OEMs could argue that the production and sale of something like an electric dirt bike is so expensive, that it is not a reasonable replacement for what is available with an internal combustion engine.

The burden will be on the manufacturers to show this unreasonableness, however, and that will be a tall order for them to do so. There are two reasons this is the case:

First, entries like those seen from Alta Motors already show us that performance parity from electric dirt bikes is within grasp of the motorcycle industry.

Second, with a 15-year lead-up to the ban’s implementation, the state of technology is only going to progress further, and that duration should give OEMs plenty of time to plan, develop, and build zero-emission alternatives for this sector.

The real crux of this executive order is what it will mean for the powersports industry as a whole.

With California accounting for a large portion of the off-road sector sales in the United States, the Golden State holds tremendous sway over powersport OEMs.

As such, Gov. Newsom’s order will likely force powersport manufacturers to finally take electric vehicles more seriously, which will likely see a rippling effect in other states in the USA.

Source: Office of Governor, California

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.