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Largest U.S. auto market is moving away from the internal combustion engine

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

The largest auto market in the U.S. is stepping away from the internal combustion engine. Regulators are expected to approve a plan today to ban sales of new gasoline-powered cars in California by 2035. NPR's Nathan Rott reports the move could have widespread effects on the auto industry and also on climate change.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Cars, trucks, SUVs - transportation like the kind constantly clogging Los Angeles streets is the largest source of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the country. To slow climate change, California regulators say they need to end traffic that sounds like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEHICLE WHIRRING)

ROTT: Lauren Sanchez is the senior climate adviser for California Governor Gavin Newsom.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LAUREN SANCHEZ: This regulation, the first in the world, is a game-changer for California, setting the state on an accelerated course in our transition to zero-emission vehicles, tackling carbon pollution and moving to end the tailpipe.

ROTT: And it could be a game-changer for the 13 other states, including New York, that typically follow California's lead when it comes to tailpipe emissions. All of those states encompass a full third of the U.S. auto market.

JESSICA CALDWELL: So I think, for automakers, they will probably look at this and think this is kind of what they're going to target for most of the country.

ROTT: Jessica Caldwell is the executive director of insight at the car data company Edmunds. She says automakers don't want to be making some cars for one part of the country and others for another. They want uniformity. And globally, electric vehicles, EVs...

CALDWELL: EVs are definitely the future of where autos are going. I don't think there's any question about that, especially when we look at what's been put in place by President Biden. I think it's just kind of, when is this really going to happen?

ROTT: Congress and President Biden just approved $370 billion for clean energy programs with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, a law that provides tax credits for individuals looking to buy certain kinds of electric vehicles, money that will be sorely needed if low- and middle-income people are to buy cleaner cars. Liane Randolph chairs the California Air Resources Board.

LIANE RANDOLPH: We recognize that everyone is not going to be buying a very expensive, brand-new car. But we also know that prices will go down in the future, that the supply of vehicles will increase in the future.

ROTT: And that the more affordable secondary market for electric vehicles will only grow with them.

Nathan Rott, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Nathan Rott is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where he focuses on environment issues and the American West.