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California mulls its own ban on internal combustion engines

Governments around the world have given serious thought to similar bans in the last few years.

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Electric vehicles are gaining ground with the average buyer, but they're nowhere near ubiquitous yet, and won't be for some time. But that's not stopping some governments, including California's, from banning older-school methods of transportation.

California Governor Jerry Brown "has expressed an interest" in eventually banning the sale of vehicles using internal-combustion engines, Bloomberg reports, citing an interview with the chairman of the California Air Resources Board.

Brown's interest in this kind of heavy-handed, anti-pollution measure is not unique to California. China plans to phase out the internal combustion engine, as have many European governments, including Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and France. Each of the countries mentioned has a rather long timeline for this, extending as far as 2040, and it's important to note that many of these bans are merely up for consideration, rather than being enacted into law.

There's a four-letter reason why California is allowed to craft its environmental legislation independent of the rest of the country.

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California has its own goals on a similar timeline. The state hopes to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050. Nixing the sale of fossil-fuel vehicles would certainly help that, but as Bloomberg points out, it would really rely on the automakers to boost their EV offerings in that time.

That shouldn't be too big of a problem, at least in the long, long term. A number of automakers, from Volvo to Mercedes-Benz, have pledged to electrify their entire lineup over the next couple decades. However, those plans make room for hybrids and plug-ins, which still rely on internal combustion engines for either propulsion or on-demand charging duties.

Achieving a single-state ban on specific kinds of cars would be tough, but California has been able to create its own pollution-related legislation since the 1970s. Instead of asking the EPA for waivers to pass this kind of legislation, the state could change vehicle registration rules as it sees fit, which could work as a sort of ersatz ban.

All this talk of bans is a bit premature, though. The CARB chief who talked to Bloomberg pointed out that there's no firm date when such a ban could become feasible. It's on the order of decades away, so if you're planning on going out and buying a Mustang GT350R next week, feel free to do so with impunity.