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California's future ban on gasoline powered cars could force changes in Michigan

Ford Motor Company

California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order that bans the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles within 15 years.

Brett Smith of the Center for Automotive Research says the announcement from the largest car market in the U.S. will get the attention of Michigan car companies for sure.

"I think it means they have to double down or triple down on their investment and commitment to battery electric vehicles," he says.

Smith says Ford has already agreed to abide by California's stricter-than-the-U.S. emissions standards, but this goes much further, and he doesn't know if the company will welcome it.  And although General Motors CEO Mary Barra has commited her company to an all-electric future, he says California's 2035 timeline could be difficult to meet.

That's not even taking into account that both companies make a huge part of their profit selling gasoline-powered pickup trucks.  Electric versions of pickup trucks are in the works at both companies, but Smith says California has to convince consumers to give up some of the conveniences of gas-and-diesel powered trucks, such as greater range and hauling capability.

Still, he calls California's announcement an important step towards phasing out fossil fuels. 

"It's a great way to make a statement -- say this is what I believe in, this is the way we need to go, this is our big hairy goal -- let's get there."

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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