You’ve probably already heard that California has passed a measure to ban the sale of all gas-powered autos by 2035. Hybrid cars sales are, so far, exempt. To say this raises several issues is to grossly underestimate the impact the announcement has had across the country.
The Future Will Be Here Early

The New Rules

It is a fairly simple rule with enormously complex consequences. If an auto manufacturer wants to sell in the largest car market in the United States in 2026, 35% of their passenger car and light truck sales must be electric vehicles. (Right now it’s 16%). In 2030, it’s 68%, 100% by 2035. Manufacturers who fail to comply will face a $20,000 fine for every new vehicle sold in violation of the targets. That’s steep, far more than the average profit margin on a car sale, and California has the well-earned reputation of enforcing fines.

What California Does . . .

Californians buy more new vehicles a year than any other state. Our environmental and safety regulations already affect the industry, we’re simply too big a market to ignore. Whenever we enact a regulation like this, ten to twelve other states almost automatically follow our lead. When this happens – as it surely will now – the states that join us account for over a third of all new car sales in the country each year. The auto industry has no choice but to react. In this case, it appears that the major manufacturers are almost eager to do so. Ford and Tesla have long waiting lists for electric vehicles. Despite its problems, the wait for a Chevy Bolt is at least a year.  According to Consumer Reports, demand is also on the rise with over 14% of Americans saying they will definitely buy or lease an electric vehicle for their next purchase. Another 22% are seriously considering it. The market is there and the auto industry can’t make cars fast enough to satisfy it.

Issues Stand in the Way

There are many serious issues that need to be overcome to make this a reality. Every one of those issues is comprised of hundreds of other, less serious, issues. As you might suspect, ‘infrastructure’ is a major issue. There are too few charging stations across the state and the nation. Far too many that are in place aren’t reliable. Batteries. We’ve written a lot over the last months about serious issues with batteries, mostly revolving around fire hazards with the manufacturers unable to find a fix. Another problem – right now, batteries are more expensive than combustion engines. That is one of the factors in the high price of most electric vehicles. Electric vehicles must be at least as affordable as the average gas-powered car for this to work. As we were writing this there was a major technological breakthrough –  news as we were writing this, news that answered a major concern – government researchers announced that they have found a way to charge electric car batteries up to 90 percent in just 10 minutes. That’s faster than your iPhone charges.  Drivers have always been concerned on how to keep their electric vehicles charged for a long trip (right now the average range for an electric vehicle on one battery charge is 200 miles). This news may have solved it. There will be other problems along the way. There will still be sales of gas-powered cars for years.  There will be technologic advances that present more and issues. There will be recalls and defects. Most importantly, the California Lemon Law will be just as effective then as it is now.

Lemon Law and Electric Vehicles

A concern we have is that the manufacturers – already swamped with orders – may move too quickly, adapt technology that hasn’t been proven, push production. That would, of course, result in defects which would undoubtedly result in recalls which would overwhelm the ability of manufacturers to fix them. The thing about electric vehicles is that while they look simpler than gas-powered vehicles they emphatically are not. It’s often pointed out that while gas powered vehicles have over 2,000 moving parts, electric vehicles have less than 20. That’s true but it does not translate into fewer problems. The fact is, because the systems in electric vehicles are so integrated aside a flat tire, most problems will have widespread and lasting implications.
New Defects Same as the Old Defects

New Defects Same as the Old Defects

With apologies to The Who, the theme over the next thirteen years will, from a Lemon Law viewpoint, be ‘meet the new defects, same as the old defects.’ We are going to see what we see now:
  • Automatic Emergency Braking.  We have heard of many instances when the braking system in electric vehicles stopped the cars in the middle of the street, with no other cars around.
  • Automatic Backup Automation. We also have seen several instances when electric vehicles stopped when backing up when there was no obstacle or oncoming car.
  • Battery Failure. It’s self-explanatory, when the battery fails – hopefully not on the highway – the vehicle is useless.  When the battery fails on a hybrid it defeats the whole reason you went eco-friendly in the first place.
  • Braking System. The braking system in electric vehicles serve two purposes: to slow the car and to charge the batteries. Issues with these ‘regenerative braking systems’ are serious for obvious reasons.
  • Computer issues. All vehicles are reliant on computers but none more so than electric and hybrids. There is no such thing as a ‘simple’ computer problem.
  • Electrical System Malfunctions. It takes a vast network of sensitive electronics to keep electric vehicles running properly. The system is integrated and a defect in one spot can and probably will affect the vehicles overall performance.

What’s Not Changing

Two things. The California Lemon Law remains the same, the best in the nation. Gayle Law will be here for you through it all.
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