I live in California and do not dream of owning a Tesla.
Nor have I ever driven a Tesla or any electric cars besides the ones people crash on purpose. Those days are probably numbered, though. In the foreseeable future, new-car shoppers in the Golden State will likely be test-driving Teslas, not Hellcats. In September, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that articulates a vision for 100% of new cars sold in-state to be zero-emission by 2035. The order also sets somewhat more modest goals for commercial-vehicle sales and operations.
Sales of electric and hybrid cars may be on the rise in California, but the 2035 goal is either impressively ambitious or naively unrealistic, depending on one’s point of view. Speaking for myself as I type this on November 5, 2020, the past three days have felt like three years; but in the grand scheme of things, 2035 will arrive sooner than one might expect. And were the State to realize the 2035 goal, what impacts will that have on my fellow Californians’ wallets? What about the infrastructure we would need to improve and expand in order to power all those cars? Will the grid itself generate and supply “clean” energy? The executive order does not sufficiently address these and many questions crucial to meeting the 2035 goal successfully.
This is not an opinion piece on whether or not the State should phase out fossil-fuel vehicle sales within 15 years, but I am sympathetic to any efforts, government or otherwise, to reduce fossil-fuel emissions. And if that means not being able to drive off the lot in a brand-new 2036 six-speed 4-cylinder Miata, I can live with that. Really.
But given the current, petroleum-powered reality, I am struggling to envision what California car ownership in fifteen years will look like. What choices will we have, as consumers? Will hydrogen-powered vehicles be available by then? Will “owning” a car still be a thing, or will we be hopping into random, poorly-parked rideshare cars to shop for groceries?
Over the weeks ahead, I will try to find some answers to questions like these, and I’ll share what I learn here. I’ll explore what electric-car ownership is like now verus what it could look like in the near future. I’ll investigate how the auto industry is responding to (or ignoring) the goal. And yes, I’ll even try to divine what it will mean to be a driving enthusiast in 2035.
In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts and questions in the comments below. What questions do you have about the State’s 2035 goal? If you drive a zero-emission car, what’s your experience like?
Erik JP Drobey lives in San Francisco. He chronicles some of his culinary and vehicular adventures on Instagram as @zjpd.
The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.