A vast majority of Americans say all new cars sold in the U.S. should be electric by 2030, according to a poll released in November. Out of 2,678 registered voters who participated in the survey, 55 percent supported a full transition to electric vehicles in under a decade, 35 percent opposed the transition on those terms, and 10 percent remained unsure.
The poll was sponsored by the environmental advocacy group Coltura and conducted in October by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, and Nexus Polling.
When asked about the positive impact of such a policy, the largest number of respondents (73 percent) pointed to improved air quality. Other leading benefits included combating climate change (64 percent), improving health (61 percent), and achieving energy independence (58 percent).
A broader trend
As climate change becomes an increasingly pressing issue for governments across the world, many leaders have come to see regulating emissions from vehicles as an important part of their environmental strategy. The reason is simple: gas-powered vehicles emit a lot of pollutants, including greenhouse gases. For example, transportation accounted for 29 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. in 2019, according to the EPA. More than half of those emissions came from light-duty vehicles, a category that includes normal passenger cars.
Some states have already taken measures to reduce the number of gas-powered vehicles on the road. New York State has effectively banned the sale of new gas-powered cars after 2035. Earlier this year, the governors of a dozen states called on President Biden to make a similar decision at the national level. In 2020, the US House of Representatives failed to vote on an amendment to the Clean Air Act that would have required half of all passenger vehicles to produce zero emissions by 2025.
Similar measures have found support abroad. At the recent COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, representatives from dozens of countries and scores of cities, states, companies, and investment groups signed a non-binding agreement in support of a similar transition.
The signatories — including automakers Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover, and Mercedes-Benz — committed to using their influence in “rapidly accelerating the transition to zero-emission vehicles,” with the aim of completing the transition in “leading markets” by 2035 and across the globe by 2040.
Getting to 100 percent electric won’t be quick or easy. While automakers including Tesla and Chevrolet have made electric vehicles available to millions of well-off Americans, they remain a rare sight in many parts of the country. NPR reports that gas and diesel vehicles account for 97 percent of the US auto market.
Jeff Alson, a former senior engineer with the EPA, told the New York Times that “regulatory agencies find it difficult to force major technology change.”
“If you want to replace an internal combustion engine with a battery pack, and replace the transmission with electric motors — that’s replacing the guts of gasoline-powered cars. Forcing that kind of change will not be easy for federal agencies and politicians to do unless they have the support of the public and the automakers,” he said.