The strictest state in the union in terms of emissions and fuel economy is about to put the hammer down on gasoline cars. Two laws introduced in California this week will crack down on emissions cheats and fossil fuels. It’s already a hard state to own a older, classic or modified car in, but here’s what owners will have to look forward to.
First, the state agency overseeing emissions testing is going after smog check stations that pass cars they’re not supposed to. In California, owners of cars built in 1976 or later are subject to a biennial emissions test. Failed cars don’t get their registration renewal stickers, which means they’re no longer street legal. Results are already sent directly to the DMV.
But news came on August 23 that the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) will soon require web cameras and biometric verification at smog check stations. The cameras will let BAR randomly look in on any smog test, just to make sure the testing station isn’t doing anything fishy to pass cars that should be failing. The biometric verifications, such as fingerprint scanners, mean that only verified staff at the testing station will be able to operate the test equipment.
Let’s just state for the record that we do not condone any illegal activity or cheating the smog testing system. However, we have heard that owners of cars in danger of failing smog checks, especially modified ones, have in the past sought out “friendly” testing stations to take their cars. The testing staff had methods of fudging results for a couple of Benjamins. With the cameras and biometrics, it’s going to be much harder to fool the system.
On Thursday, the California Air Resources Board (ironically, CARB) is expected to pass a rule that, by 2035, will allow only the sale of zero-emission new cars by 2035. Now before everyone freaks out, let us point out that the ban only applies to new car sales. Gasoline-powered used cars will still be able to be sold, and internal combustion cars will still be legal to drive.
However, California ranks first in new car sales among the 50 states, and this will send a big signal to automakers. If you want to sell cars in California, they’ll have to be electric, hydrogen, or have some other kind of zero-emissions powertrain. Many other states follow California’s lead, and within hours Washington state adopted a similar law.
None of this should come as a surprise. The writing’s been on the wall for years, and many car companies were pledging the end of internal combustion engines already long before California’s new rules. It’s safe to say that this is a net positive for the environment and thus humankind. Nevertheless, it’s not difficult to imagine a future now where gas stations will be fewer and farther between, and the precious dinosaur juice required to power our beloved cars will be harder to find and more expensive.