'It's the Right Time': Experts Weigh in on California's Ban on New Gas Cars

David Shultz

David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.

LA Sunset and cars on road
Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

California air regulators have passed a ban on new gas-powered vehicle sales that will take effect in 2035.

Governor Gavin Newsom had outlined the plan earlier in the week, but the law is now official. The plan is ambitious—perhaps wildly so—but it continues the tradition of California forging bold new transportation policies that are eventually adopted nationally due to the state’s massive population and economic influence.

“California, for decades—going back to the 1960s—played a useful role in pushing clean technology, particularly with automobile,” says Marlon Boarnet, a professor of public policy and chair of the Urban Planning & Spatial Analysis Department at University of Southern California.

“A lot of what we think about catalytic converters, improved fuel economy, lower emitting engines, were innovated first by mandated regulations in California,” Boarnet says.

In addition to banning all new internal combustion engine vehicle sales by 2035, the law also mandates that 35% of new vehicles sales must be electric by 2026. That number will increase to 51% by 2028 and 68% in 2030.

While Boarnet acknowledges that the policy is extremely bold, he says the timing makes sense for the state. At present California leads the nation in new EV adoption. Currently, 16% of all new cars sales are battery electric, compared to about 4% to 5% nationally. California is also among the leaders in renewable electricity generation. In 2020, nearly 60% of the state’s energy came from renewables, which means a switch to EVs will actually mitigate climate damage.

“Due to this set of factors, the rapid increase in renewable energy, the now rapidly growing market share of electric vehicles, I would argue it's the right time,” says Boarnet.

But is it feasible? Right now, the EV market in America is in pretty ragged shape. Layoffs have affected huge swaths of the tech industry and nascent automakers have not been spared. Companies like Rivian have struggled to hit production targets due to persistent supply chain woes ignited by the pandemic. Many EV manufactures—even Tesla—have been forced to raise prices in the last several months to combat inflation.

But Eleftheria Kontou, a transportation and sustainability researcher at the University of Illinois, says that the policy might actually help to stabilize the market a bit by providing a clear roadmap for manufacturers.

“After COVID-19, there has been a shakeup, right? It’s hard to predict the exact date of the recovery, but having these targets now is important because it helps [manufacturers] prepare accordingly,” says Kontou.

It's also easy to forget that 2035 is still 13 years away. While it’s tempting to extrapolate the industry’s struggles over the last two years into its long term potential, growth in other green energy sectors suggests that would be a mistake.

Since 2009, the price of solar energy has declined by more than 70%. The United States has increased its solar capacity from .34 GW in 2008 to 97.2 GW today. Wind power is down to 2 cents per kilowatt hour.

“A policy like this is really useful in underpinning the long-term expectations,” says Boarnet. “The idea is to send a signal both to auto manufacturers and to potential customers that, long term, EVs are the future.”

There’s still tons of work to be done to ensure that this legislation can actually succeed. Huge questions remain about battery components like cobalt and lithium. Where will the country secure them from? How do we keep costs reasonable? Charging infrastructure also remains woefully scarce in some parts of the country. Even in California, chargers are frequently broken or working far below capacity. Grid stability and capacity will need to be improved (though not nearly to the degree that bad-faith comment section trolls would have you believe).

It’s going to be a massive lift for the state, but Boarnet and Kontou both say the policy is sound overall and will pave the way for other states to get on board.

“This is what California has done and has done successfully,” says Boarnet. “We are the state–basically since the '60s–that has pushed forward clean vehicle technology. I don't want to engage in too much hubris, but it's been pretty successful. This is what I would call a well-thought-through next step.”

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If Angelenos Don’t Seize the Curb, They Risk Losing Sidewalk Dining

Maylin Tu
Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
Connie Llanos, Jordan Justus and Gene Oh
Justin Janes, Vizeos Media

Three years ago, Los Angeles went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, cities like L.A. are struggling to hold on to pandemic-era transportation and infrastructure changes, like sidewalk dining and slow streets, while managing escalating demand for curb space from rideshare and delivery.

At Curbivore, a conference dedicated to “commerce at the curb” held earlier this month in downtown Los Angeles, the topic was “Grading on a Curb: The State of our Streets & Cities in 2023,” a panel moderated by Drew Grant, editorial director for dot.LA.

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Plug In South LA Accelerator Launches 4th Cohort to Double Down On Black and Latinx Communities

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Plug In South LA Accelerator Launches 4th Cohort to Double Down On Black and Latinx Communities
Provided by Plug In

Last week, Plug In, a South LA accelerator program, announced the launch of its fourth cohort. The deadline to apply is March 24 and the program will begin in April and end mid-July.

While Plug In got its start by helping South LA’s tech ecosystem, the company is not limiting the talent pool to local companies. Instead, Plug In is widening its reach by allowing startups from across the nation to participate. The 12-week program is focused on finding founders in the health care, digital media, edtech, climate and sustainability sectors.

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How the 'Thrift Haul' Boosted Secondhand Ecommerce Platforms

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
How the 'Thrift Haul' Boosted Secondhand Ecommerce Platforms
Evan Xie

If you can believe it, it’s been more than a decade since rapper Macklemore extolled the virtues of thrift shopping in a viral music video. But while scouring the ranks of vintage clothing stores looking for the ultimate come-up may have waned in popularity since 2012, the online version of this activity is apparently thriving.

According to a new trend story from CNBC, interest in “reselling” platforms like Etsy-owned Depop and Poshmark has exploded in the years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. In an article that spends a frankly surprising amount of time focused on sellers receiving death threats before concluding that they’re “not the norm,” the network cites the usual belt-tightening ecommerce suspects – housebound individuals doing more of their shopping online coupled with inflation woes and recession fears – as the causes behind the uptick.

As for data, there’s a survey from Depop themselves, finding that 53% of respondents in the UK are more inclined to shop secondhand as living costs continue to rise. Additional research from Advance Market Analytics confirms the trend, citing not just increased demand for cheap clothes but the pressing need for a sustainable alternative to recycling clothing materials at its core.

The major popularity of “thrift haul” videos across social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok has also boosted the visibility of vintage clothes shopping and hunting for buried treasures. Teenage TikToker Jacklyn Wells scores millions of views on her thrift haul videos, only to get routinely mass-accused of greed for ratching up the Depop resell prices for her coolest finds and discoveries. Nonetheless, viral clips like Wells’ have helped to embed secondhand shopping apps more generally within online fashion culture. Fashion and beauty magazine Hunger now features a regular list of the hottest items on the re-sale market, with a focus on how to use them to recreate hot runway looks.

As with a lot of consumer and technology trends, the sudden surge of interest in second-hand clothing retailers was only partly organic. According to The Drum, ecommerce apps Vinted, eBay, and Depop have collectively spent around $120 million on advertising throughout the last few years, promoting the recent vintage shopping boom and helping to normalize second-hand shopping. This includes conventional advertising, of course, but also deals with online influencers to post content like “thrift haul” videos, along with shoutouts for where to track down the best finds.

Reselling platforms have naturally responded to the increase in visibility with new features (as well as a predictable hike in transaction fees). Poshmark recently introduced livestreamed “Posh Shows” during which sellers can host auctions or provide deeper insight into their inventory. Depop, meanwhile, has introduced a “Make Offer” option to fully integrate the bartering and negotiation process into the app, rather than forcing buyers and sellers to text or Direct Message one another elsewhere. (The platform formerly had a comments section on product pages, but shut this option down after finding that it led to arguments, and wasn’t particularly helpful in making purchase decisions.)

Now that it’s clear there’s money to be made in online thrift stores, larger and more established brands and retailers are also pushing their way into the space. H&M and Target have both partnered with online thrift store ThredUp on featured collections of previously-worn clothing. A new “curated” resale collection from Tommy Hilfiger – featuring minorly damaged items that were returned to its retail stores – was developed and promoted through a partnership with Depop, which has also teamed with Kellogg’s on a line of Pop-Tarts-inspired wear. J.Crew is even bringing back its classic ‘80s Rollneck Sweater in a nod to the renewed interest in all things vintage.

Still, with any surge of popularity and visibility, there must also come an accompanying backlash. In a sharp editorial this week for Arizona University’s Daily Wildcat, thrift shopping enthusiast Luke Lawson makes the case that sites like Depop are “gentrifying fashion,” stripping communities of local thrift stores that provide a valuable public service, particularly for members of low-income communities. As well, UK tabloids are routinely filled with secondhand shopping horror stories these days, another evidence point as to their increased visibility among British consumers specifically, not to mention the general dangers of buying personal items from strangers you met over the internet.