Rule requires more NM cars to have zero emissions

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board adopted rules Thursday evening that will require a certain percentage of cars with zero tailpipe emissions that manufacturers will send to car dealerships in the state starting with model year 2027. Zero-emission vehicles include some plug-in hybrids, electrics and hydrogen. […]

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board adopted rules Thursday evening that will require a certain percentage of cars with zero tailpipe emissions that manufacturers will send to car dealerships in the state starting with model year 2027.

Zero-emission vehicles include some plug-in hybrids, electrics and hydrogen.

The rule is intended to increase availability of zero-emission vehicles, which may lead to a faster adoption of electric cars. 

The regulatory bodies approved the rule after multiple days of public hearings and expert testimony.

Starting with model year 2027, 43 percent of all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sent to New Mexico dealerships must be considered zero emission vehicles. When it comes to commercial heavy-duty trucks, 15 percent must be zero emission vehicles.

Those percentages will increase overtime, with the passenger car and light duty truck requirements reaching 82 percent by 2032.

“The adoption of these rules is a victory for customer choice, our ambitious climate goals, and cleaner air for every New Mexican,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a press release.

The new rule has some people concerned that it may be too fast of a timescale, especially given the limited electric vehicle charging infrastructure in rural communities.

According to a press release from the New Mexico Environment Department, the state has invested more than $11.5 million in charging stations using both state and federal funding and has additional $38 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The increase in availability will also come after federal incentives go into effect that allow people to save up to $7,500 on the purchase of an electric vehicle. That will start in January.

NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney described the new clean cars standards adopted this week as an “important step forward for our climate and air quality goals, especially in environmental justice and frontline communities.” 

“To accelerate the benefits of the rules, we need more clean cars and clean trucks on the road and the Environment Department will work with New Mexico’s urban and rural auto dealerships to make that happen,” he said.

The new rules are based on standards initially adopted in California. States have the choice of adopting the California standard or using federal standards. Currently, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington have adopted the rules and, last month, Colorado voted to adopt the clean cars standards.

Camilla Feibelman, the executive director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the new clean car standards will “literally save lives in New Mexico.”

This is because it will reduce air pollution. 

Feibelman further said that electric vehicle owners can save at least $14,000 over the life of the car.

“We heard from commenter after commenter who told the boards about buying EVs they love for less than $25,000 and plugging their car into a wall outlet overnight to charge,” she said. “But most had to go out of state to buy them. These standards will allow everyone to find the clean cars they want in New Mexico and support New Mexico businesses.”

Witnesses told the boards that the rules could lead to manufacturers prioritizing New Mexico when it comes to deliveries of electric vehicles and that the standards can provide some stability compared to the federal standards, which are prone to changing based on the results of elections.

Meanwhile, many environmental advocacy groups say the new rule is critical for addressing climate change.

“New Mexicans will be able to breathe easier, buy more clean, affordable vehicles, and help put the brakes on climate change with the adoption of Clean Cars and Trucks Standards,” Alexis Mena, the state’s policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a press release. “Updating sensible and achievable standards for cleaner cars and trucks would help address the climate crisis and improve public health by sharply cutting tailpipe emissions from new motor vehicles sold in the state while also saving New Mexicans money.”

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