Supervisors Back Governor’s Electric Vehicle Transition

Where San Francisco goes, the nation follows: board unanimously approves resolution backing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s EV timeline.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday, Feb. 2, urging the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as well as state agencies and the legislature to accelerate electric vehicle adoption in California. District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman authored the resolution. 

The Governor’s Executive Order, passed on Sep. 23, requires that gasoline-powered personal vehicle sales come to a halt by 2035, and that the sales of gasoline-powered cargo trucks end in 2045. The Executive Order is designed to accelerate the adoption of zero-emissions vehicles in the state. Simultaneously, General Motors has made an ambitious pledge to stop the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035, as part of their overall plan to become carbon-neutral by 2040. President Joe Biden’s administration has also committed to installing 500,000 new charging stations nationwide by 2030 in an effort to lower barriers to EV transportation.

Though the resolution has little power to actually change how California transitions to sustainable transportation, it helps show political support for one of the governor’s particularly ambitious goals, even as conservatives appear to be gaining support for their recall effort. Executive orders are also easily reversible by Newsom’s successor, though in a state as blue as California, the odds of a new governor reversing such a decision are slim. The same cannot be said on the national level. Former President Donald Trump’s administration, for example, waged multiple battles over the governor’s efforts to cut California’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Now is the time to redouble our commitment to an electric vehicle future,” said Supervisor Mandelman on Twitter. “With the Biden-Harris administration committed to installing 500,000 new charging stations nationwide by 2030, he next couple of years present a window of opportunity for SF to steer away from fossil fuel vehicles once and for all.” Mandelman was elected Chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board in January of this year. 

California has long led the nation in regulating tailpipe emissions. In 1966, California established the first vehicle emissions standards in the country, and was granted a special exemption from federal EPA regulations. That legacy has held strong: in 2012, for example, the state adopted the Advanced Clean Cars Program in an effort to put 1.5 million plug-in hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on the road by 2025. In 2019, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation to make 10 percent of all commercial parking lots with over 100 spaces charging stations for electric vehicles — the first requirement of its kind in the nation. 

Vehicle emissions, however, still make up 46 percent of San Francisco’s carbon footprint. The city has a goal of reaching 100 percent Emission-Free transportation by 2040, though SFMTA lags behind other city agencies in reaching that goal. The agency plans to only purchase electric vehicles after 2035, though SFMTA director of transit Julie Kirschbaum has already cautioned that that goal may need to be readjusted because of money and time lost during the pandemic. San Francisco says it plans to convert medium and heavy-duty vehicles to all electric fleets as part of the plan, though little has been said about how the city will convert other city-owned vehicles, like police cars (notably, a Tesla Model S used by Fremont police nearly ran out of battery during a high-speed chase in October of 2019). 
Due to its geography and relatively low industrial activity, San Francisco is known to have relatively good air quality compared to other major cities. However, many of San Francisco’s low income and majority-BIPOC communities are located near freeways or industrial zones, where air quality is markedly worse. A noticeable increase in wildfire smoke in recent years has also raised awareness about the need for cleaner air and stronger environmental regulations in the region.


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