N.Y. echoes Calif. as it eyes 100% clean car rules
BY: DAVID IACONANGELO | 10/03/2022 07:11 AM EDT
ENERGYWIRE | New York has joined a growing list of states moving to ban the sale of new cars that run only on gasoline, after its Democratic governor directed officials to draw up rules aligned with California’s own mandate.
Gov. Kathy Hochul last week directed her state’s environmental officials to issue draft regulations that would require all sales of new light-duty cars to be “zero-emissions” vehicles by 2035. In California, that term mostly refers to pure electrics, although plug-in hybrids will be able to comprise one-fifth of sales at that date, under rules finalized in August (Energywire, Aug. 26).
In New York, as in California, sales of EVs would have to ramp up drastically in the near term to meet goals. By 2026, 35 percent of light-duty auto sales would have to be “zero emissions.” In 2030, that would grow to 68 percent. New York is the most populous state to start drawing up rules for joining with California’s standards. And Hochul’s move highlights the broader eagerness of states to latch onto California’s clean-car mandate.
“New York is a national climate leader and an economic powerhouse, and we’re using our strength to help spur innovation and implementation of zero-emission vehicles on a grand scale,” the New York governor said in a statement.
Hochul added that the state would make use of “sustained state and federal investments” to incentivize the transition to EVs, saying that her plan would “benefit our climate and the health of our communities for generations to come.” Hochul’s proposed zero-emissions requirements would be aimed at a segment that includes new passenger cars, pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles sold in New York.
Haley Viccaro, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said her department is aiming to finalize the regulations by the end of 2022.
Officials in at least five additional states — Oregon, Massachusetts, Nevada, Vermont and Washington — have released initial proposals to adopt California’s newest clean-car rules. Two of those, Massachusetts and Washington, also have laws that either require or recommend a goal of 100 percent new clean-car sales (Energywire, Aug. 12).
A larger group, comprised of 17 states, has previously claimed Clean Air Act authority to follow California’s vehicle standards — although officials in some of them have suggested they may not try to adopt California’s new rules.
Nick Nigro, founder of Atlas Public Policy, an EV consulting firm, said he expected New York and other states to become leaders in their own right on electric vehicles, in part by adopting the rules.
Officials in New York are “clearly making it known to the rest of the country that they’re in the leadership circle here now, on EVs,” Nigro said. “And that’s where they want to stay. I think that’s a big deal.”
Can N.Y. follow through?
In New York, Hochul’s order was welcomed by EV advocates, some of whom also noted potential shortcomings.
Leah Meredith, a principal at national clean-energy business group Advanced Energy Economy, said New York’s move to adopt California’s car rules “sends a loud and clear message to carmakers that New Yorkers want electric vehicles.”
“With electric vehicles in high demand but currently in short supply, carmakers are prioritizing the states that speak up, and the Governor’s announcement helps ensure that New Yorkers will have the full range of electric vehicle models to choose from,” she said in a statement, adding that the program would also speed up the development of a used-EV market in New York.
But the difficulties that would await New York in its execution of the EV sales mandates came into immediate view as well.
If the state does finalize the rules, it would start well behind California in its race to electrify cars. In the first half of 2022, about 18 percent of sales in the new car segment in California were electric, according to figures from the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. In New York, about 5 percent of sales were EVs during that same period — the eighteenth highest number in the nation.
That gap is partly due to California’s broad, longstanding suite of electric-car programs paid for with cap-and-trade dollars. Those have included electric carsharing and charger build-out programs in impoverished rural towns and urban areas (Energywire, Nov. 22, 2019).
Some environmentalists said they thought New York was not on pace to build enough chargers to support a California-style transition, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding and $175 million from last year’s federal bipartisan infrastructure law.
Jessica Enzmann, a senior organizing representative for the Sierra Club in New York, described the state’s charging programs as “piecemeal” and said officials would “need to do some extra work on this front to ensure we’re prepared for our electric vehicle transition.”
“We urge New York to develop a comprehensive, coordinated, and inter-agency road map for how the State will implement its ambitious commitments to electrifying vehicles and building out charging,” said Enzmann in an email to E&E News.
Advocates at the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY), a statewide clean energy group, named what they saw as another hindrance to a goal of 100 percent clean cars in New York: a law that requires most electric vehicles to be sold through dealerships.
Passed at the behest of auto dealers, the law effectively prevents new, EV-only manufacturers like Rivian Automotive Inc. or Lucid Group Inc. from opening up their own dedicated showrooms in New York. And it means traditional automakers will need to rely on dealerships to promote EVs over gasoline cars.
“We don’t believe dealers are actively promoting and selling EVs,” especially outside of the New York City area, said Deb Peck Kelleher, director of policy analysis and operations at ACE NY.
Immediately after Hochul’s announcement last week, ACE NY urged the governor to support repealing the dealership law in a way that would open up car buyers’ access to electric cars.
To meet the clean-car sales requirements, “we need to modernize our state law and expand purchasing options for consumers,” said Peck Kelleher in a statement. “New Yorkers across the state should have convenient access to EV sales locations.”
Without a repeal of the law, she said in an interview, “I think it will be very hard to achieve the numbers of EV sales we need, within the necessary time frames.”
Representatives of the New York State Auto Dealership Association, a statewide trade group, did not respond to E&E News in time for publication. But in the recent past, it has rallied its members to defend the dealership law.
‘Endgame’ on climate?
Allowing car companies to sell electric vehicles directly to drivers posed “a great threat to the franchised dealer system,” the New York auto dealers group said in a blog post last year.
Automakers might decide to create separate, EV-only lines of vehicles to bypass dealerships entirely if New York’s law — and similar ones in other states — were changed, the group said then.
For New York, living up to a 2035 clean-car sales mandate might make a major difference for the state’s progress toward its own climate laws, which require net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury.
In 2019, transportation contributed 28 percent of the state’s carbon dioxide emissions, making it second only to buildings, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. And a draft blueprint for New York’s climate goals also calls for the state to adopt an all-EV sales rule by the 2035 date.
“California has a few years’ head start” in moving toward EVs, said Nigro of Atlas Policy. But other states are catching up, he said.
A 2035 phase-out of gasoline cars represented a kind of ultimate goal for states seeking to cut transportation emissions, he noted.
“This takes us to the endgame for zero emissions vehicles,” said Nigro.