New York to Ban New Gas-Powered Vehicles, Following California's Lead

By 2035, all new cars sold in the state will be required to be zero-emissions. The change will likely rapidly boost electric vehicle sales.

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Imagine: a Manhattan with all of the honks but none of the exhaust fumes.
Imagine: a Manhattan with all of the honks but none of the exhaust fumes.
Photo: Ryan DeBerardinis (Shutterstock)

New York is following in California’s tire treads, making drastic moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Empire State will entirely ban the purchase of new petroleum-powered cars by 2035.

“With sustained state and federal investments, our actions are incentivizing New Yorkers, local governments, and businesses to make the transition to electric vehicles. We’re driving New York’s transition to clean transportation forward, and today’s announcement will benefit our climate and the health of our communities for generations to come,” said Governor Kathy Hochul in a statement outlining the new policy directive.

The regulatory step will take New York closer to its statewide goal of 85% emissions reductions by 2050 from 1990 level.

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Transportation accounted for 28% of New York’s total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the 2021 statewide report—pumping 106.92 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere in a single year. Transitioning to electric vehicles should significantly reduce those emissions, assuming the power grid transitions away from fossil fuels as well.

Hochul pulled up to a press conference in White Plains in a Chevy Bolt on Thursday morning, where she laid out the plans for a future gas-free New York. The regulation will go into effect in phases.

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First, by 2026, 35% of all new light-duty vehicles sold in the state will be required to be electric. Then, by 2030, that percentage will rise to 68%, ramping up to 100% by 2035. New pollution standards for gas-powered vehicles manufactured from 2026 to 2034 are also set accompany the EV mandates.

Additional related policies include moving to an all-electric school bus fleet across New York by 2035 and increased financial support for both individuals and municipalities looking to purchase EVs. The state is adding $10 million to the Drive Clean Rebate program, which offers an incentive of up to $2,000 (on top of the federal tax rebate of up to $7,500) to incentivize and assist people in purchasing electric cars. New York has already issued more than 78,000 rebates statewide, according to Hochul.

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“You have no more excuses” to not buy an EV, Hochul said. “We are not heading down that dead-end street [of gas vehicles] any longer.” Although the upfront costs of purchasing an EV are still relatively high, that cost is dropping, and some assessments have found that, in the long-term, electric cars are cheaper to maintain and own than their gas counterparts.

California enacted a similar policy in August, but Hochul wasn’t content to let the West Coast take all the credit. The Governor pointed out that she signed the gas-ban goal in 2021. But she “had to wait for California to take a step because there’s some federal requirement that California had to go first—that’s the only time we’re letting them go first,” she added.

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On top of the CO2 reductions, switching from gas-powered vehicles to EVs could have sweeping public health benefits across the state. “Westchester is a non-attainment zone for the Clean Air Act,” said State Senator Pete Harckham, in Thursday’s press conference—highlighting the local benefits of curbing combustion vehicles. Air pollution is deadly and debilitating. And in New York, car exhaust is one of the largest contributors.

New York’s announcement is exciting, at a time when we desperately need gas-powered cars and fossil fuel reliance to die out. Unfortunately, personal EVs aren’t necessarily a perfect fix. There are unresolved questions of how the present supply of necessary materials like lithium, copper, and rare earth metals will be able to meet the growing demand. And all that mining comes with its own environmental costs, even if they’re less existentially pressing than climate change itself. Unfortunately, Hochul’s announcement didn’t address additional state funding for public transit expansion.