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All new cars in the EU will be zero-emission by 2035. Here's where the U.S. stands

Electric cars charge at a hub in downtown Milan on March 23. Starting in 2035, all cars sold in the European Union will be zero-emission vehicles.
Gabriel Bouys
AFP via Getty Images
Electric cars charge at a hub in downtown Milan on March 23. Starting in 2035, all cars sold in the European Union will be zero-emission vehicles.

European Union member states gave final approval Tuesday to a plan that would require all new cars sold in the EU to be zero-emission vehicles starting in the year 2035.

It's part of the EU's plan to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and more ambitious than similar efforts in the U.S. A quarter of the bloc's emissions come from the transportation sector, and 70% of that is road traffic.

"The direction of travel is clear: in 2035, new cars and vans must have zero emissions," European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans said in a statement.

"The new rules on CO2-emissions from cars and vans are a key part of the European Green Deal and will be a big contribution to our target of being climate neutral by 2050," Timmermans added.

The plan also requires that, by the year 2030, the average emissions of new cars drop by 55% and the average emissions of new vans drop by 50%, compared with vehicle emissions in 2021.

There's one major caveat to the plan. The European Commission said it would carve out an exemption for the continued sale of cars that run on e-fuels past 2035 at Germany's request, according to Reuters. E-fuels are made using captured CO2 emissions.

Poland opposed the new law, the BBC reported, and Italy, Bulgaria and Romania abstained from the vote.

U.S. efforts to phase out gas-powered cars include future bans in several states

President Biden has said he supports the proliferation of electric vehicles, and in 2021 he signed an executive order setting a goal that half of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. in 2030 be zero-emission vehicles, including plug-in hybrids.

Several states have announced future bans on gas-powered cars, though.

California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington have all said they would prohibit the sale of new gas-powered vehicles beginning in 2035, Money reported.

The shift from combustion engines to electric vehicles won't be as easy as turning a key, experts say.

Some of the challenges of switching to zero-emission vehicles include the persistently high cost of electric cars, China's dominance of the electric battery supply chain, and a lack of charging infrastructure.

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