But auto mechanics have warned that while most operating and maintenance costs are lower for electric vehicles, some parts can be more expensive to replace. Rojas also said electric car owners may run into issues down the line that they haven’t thought of yet.
Electric vehicles tend to weigh more than conventional cars, which means they need special tires that can handle a heavier load. These can cost $200 to $300 per tire, compared to the average $50 to $150 for a gas-powered car, Rojas said.
Additionally, other services like replacing a windshield on a car like a Tesla, which has sensors and computerized features, could cost between $1,100 and $2,000, he said, compared to $200 and $500 for the windshield of a conventional car.
“Because the car is still under dealer warranty, nothing is currently coming out of his pocket,” Rojas said. “But as the vehicle gets older, it will become more expensive.”
While sales of zero-emission vehicles have steadily increased in recent years, Californians continue to drive primarily gasoline-powered cars. Electric cars in 2021 accounted for about 3% of all cars on the road but 12.4% of car sales.
Some mechanics doubt that consumer behavior can change as quickly as the air commission thinks. The proposal would require a massive overhaul of new charging stations and building codes.
“It’s almost impossible to make all of these changes by 2035,” Dirige said. “We don’t have the infrastructure to switch to all electric vehicles. We barely have it now. And if you ask people, they’re afraid they’ll end up with a car that’s going to run out of power and they’ll be stuck somewhere.
Mechanics will need new skills or new jobs
Rojas and his business partner, Raul Perez, employ two other mechanics, also Latino immigrants, who perform routine services such as oil changes and tune-ups.
Rojas said mechanics have to invest thousands of dollars of their own money to buy special equipment and tools. Some might use their existing tools and skills to service electric cars, as the cars would still require cosmetic repairs, tire rotations and battery inspections.
But many won’t be able to afford to retrain for a new career or learn new skills in complex areas like the electrical engineering needed to repair hybrid and electric models.
“If the government wants to help us economically to retrain, that could really help people who might be struggling but want to learn,” he said.
Shane Gusman, a lobbyist for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said heads of state should help fund the retraining of workers who lose their jobs due to state efforts to combat climate change.
“Trade unions do not oppose responsible policies to protect the climate and try to slow climate change,” he said. “But we all have to think about the impact on workers. We must try to provide policies that protect the workforce, which ultimately protects our economy.
To reduce job losses due to its zero-emission vehicle mandate, the air commission in its report states that “policy options could be considered for retraining and transfer support, particularly for people low income”.
State Sen. Josh Becker, a Democrat from San Mateo, agreed. He said “the path to zero must foster new well-paying and secure jobs for the middle class, and work to transition those in fossil fuel industries.”
“It’s true that it’s easier to talk about energy transition when it’s not our own jobs that are threatened,” he said.
Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi, who chairs the Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policy, presented AB 1966, which would create a state fund to help retrain and transition workers from the fossil fuel industry to other non-polluting sectors. He said the funds would also provide wage replacement and insurance, pension guarantees, healthcare options and peer counselling.
The bill, however, would not help auto mechanics.
“We all know change can be difficult for anyone,” he said. “We must transition to a clean energy economy in a way that leaves no one behind.”