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From smog emissions to rules around non-operational cars, California can be strict about vehicles. Therefore, many people believed a rumor that California is banning black cars in an attempt to curb global warming. The truth is that the California Environmental Protection Agency found that phasing out black cars might reduce carbon emissions but never suggested it would be feasible to do so.

Do black cars pollute more?

Cars painted dark colors reflect the least sunlight and heat up the most. Therefore, a black car’s air conditioning has to work harder to cool it on a hot road. This draws more electricity from the alternator which reduces mpg by around 1%.

A black Lamborghini parked on a city street, a salon and other businesses visible in the background.
Black Lamborghini | Marc Kleen via Unsplash

Scientists at the University of California, Berkley, actually studied the effects of car paint color on emissions–according to Green Car Reports. They found that light colors reflect both visible and invisible radiation from the sun, and thus soak up less heat. Therefore, dark-colored cars with dark-colored interiors, tend to get hotter in the sun.

The study concluded that a light colored car polluted less: it can release 1.1% less carbon dioxide and 0.5% less other tailpipe emissions. A lighter car can also have 1.1% better fuel efficiency than a black car.

Was California considering a black car ban?

Back in 2009, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) looked into passive ways for cars to stay cool, reducing A/C use and thus fuel consumption. The board looked into painting some future cars in new solar reflective paints, which are not available in black. But it never proposed a ban on this popular car color.

Black Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck driving along a harbor, the ocean and mountains visible in the background.
Black Silverado | Jonathan Cooper via Unsplash

The CARB’s 2009 focus was “cool cars” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions–according to Snopes. One key way to reduce emissions is to use A/C less. Modern cars are not engineered for passive cooling, but CARB had some ideas. One option was window glazing to reflect as much light as possible. Another was a new technology: solar reflective paint. CARB hoped the two methods could combine for a 20% reflectivity to keep cars cooler.

In CARB’s final report to the state of California, it admitted that solar reflective paint is an emerging technology and “Jet black remains an issue.” In addition, it admitted that the technology “is not cost effective today” and should not be part of near-future regulations.

California’s black car ban was just a rumor

Black Dodge Challenger muscle car driving along a tree-lined residential street.
Black Dodge Challenger | Florian Schneider via Unsplash

Multiple people asked the fact-checkers at Snopes whether California was going to ban black cars. One person said, “I have just heard that to combat global warming President Obama will ban the use of Black painted cars in the state of California.”

Obviously, the President of the United States cannot pass a ban in just one state, that’s the Governor’s job. This was a rumor and a poorly-educated rumor at that.

Here’s what another person said: “While listening to Rush Limbaugh today, I heard him say that the state of California is banning black cars, because they’re considered ‘racist’.”

Obviously Limbaugh took the inaccurate rumor–of a California mandate against black cars for environmental reasons–and put his own twist on it.

If you are considering buying a black car in California, rest assured that the Golden State currently has no plans or proposals in the works to ban black car paint.


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