The internal combustion engine's days could be numbered in California, where officials are mulling whether a ban on sales of polluting autos is needed to achieve long-term targets for cleaner air.
Gov. Jerry Brown has expressed an interest in barring the sale of vehicles powered by internal-combustion engines, Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, said in an interview Friday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. Brown, one of the most outspoken elected official in the U.S. about the need for policies to combat climate change, would be replicating similar moves by China, France and the U.K.
"I've gotten messages from the governor asking, 'Why haven't we done something already?'" Nichols said, referring to China's planned phase-out of fossil-fuel vehicle sales. "The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California."
Embracing such a policy would send shockwaves through the global car industry due to the heft of California's auto market. More than 2 million new passenger vehicles were registered in the state last year, topping France, Italy or Spain. If a ban were implemented, automakers from General Motors to Toyota Motor Corp. would be under new pressure to make electric vehicles the standard for personal transportation in the most populous U.S. state, casting fresh doubts on the future of gasoline- and diesel-powered autos elsewhere.
California has set a goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. Rising emissions from on-road transportation has undercut the state's efforts to reduce pollution, a San Francisco-based nonprofit said last month.
"To reach the ambitious levels of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, we have to pretty much replace all combustion with some form of renewable energy by 2040 or 2050," Nichols said. "We're looking at that as a method of moving this discussion forward."