California Considers Killing Internal Combustion

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Bloomberg is reporting that California Governor Jerry Brown is considering ways to ban the sale of vehicles that use internal combustion engines – a move that could have massive implications not only for vehicle sales, the environment, but potentially the motorcycle industry as well.

Still in the early days of consideration, the news comes from remarks made by Mary Nichols, who is the Chairman of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and her remarks and relaying of thought from Gov. Brown don’t make it clear if the ban would apply only to passenger vehicles, or if it would include modes of transportation like trucks, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles.

However, the move mimics similar bans that we have already seen in places like China, and follows a trend that is catching on in European countries too, with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and The Netherlands all recently announcing similar efforts and goals to block the sale of internal combustion vehicles in the coming decades.

While the Trump administration may deny the science of climate change, having recently pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement on emissions, states, municipalities, and even businesses are filling the federal void.

California of course has a long history of stricter emission standards for vehicles, with the California Air Resources Board imposing stricter emissions requirements on vehicles.

California also has its own cap-and-trade emissions program, which works in partnership with the Canadian province of Quebec. This economic model for incentivizing cleaner emissions from business is becoming the go-to model for similar efforts worldwide. 

California has also cut out for itself a unique requirements for on-road vehicles, primarily through waivers from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA). That would likely not be the way forward for banning internal combustion engines, however, as the Trump administration’s EPA is unlikely to grant such waivers.

Instead, California would like achieve a ban through California’s vehicle registration requirements, which fall completely under Gov. Brown’s jurisdiction of power..

Naturally what California ultimately decides to do, and how it proceeds forward, will have a massive affect the automotive industry, as the Golden State accounts for more car sales than countries like France, Spain, or Italy. Roughly 10% of all motorcycle registered in the United States are in California as well.

While the details of California’s possible internal combustion engine ban are still being formed, the transition would likely take some time, with CARB Chairman Mary Nichols saying the transition would take over a decade.

This timeline can still be considered aggressive though, as the proposals that we have seen in Europe allow for a larger transition period: The Netherlands plans to ban petrol and diesel vehicles by 2020, Germany by 2030, Scotland by 2032, and the United Kingdom and France by 2040.

“There are people who believe, including who work for me, that you could stop all sales of new internal-combustion cars by 2030,” Nichols told Bloomberg. “Some people say 2035, some people say 2040. It’s awfully hard to predict any of that with precision, but it [internal combustion ban] doesn’t appear to be out of the question.”

While there could be big consequences for traditional vehicle sales and production, this growing trend will surely be a shot in the arm for electric vehicle proponents and manufacturers.

Britain’s Motorcycle Industry Association welcomed the news of the UK planning to ban gas and petrol vehicles, while acknowledging what this means for electric motorcycle sales and development. Similarly, the Volkswagen Group announced that it will electrify all 12 of its brands by 2030 – including Ducati.

Not everyone is excited about the news, however. The Association of Global Automakers warns that electric vehicles are much more expensive than their gasoline equivalents, and accordingly this will mean that fewer people will be able to afford a car in our petrol-less future.

Of course, this perspective ignores the continuously lowering costs of making batteries and electric vehicles, as well as the changing landscape of transportation, which is being ushered in by autonomous vehicle technology.

There is a strong argument that can be made that our next generation of drivers won’t in fact drive anything, and likely won’t own a car – relying instead on self-driving cars that are provide by ride-sharing services.

Coming back to the motorcycle industry, today’s news brings with it a major takeaway: the future of gasoline-powered motorcycles is surely coming to an end, whether it is by the pressure that Gov. Brown’s proposal creates, or whether its by making motorcycles an outlier in a larger transportation movement.

In response, we have yet to see any input from our so-called industry leaders in the two-wheeled space, with the American Motorcyclist Association and the Motorcycle Industry Council silent on California’s emissions goals, or similar efforts abroad. Interesting.

Source: Bloomberg