Point/Counterpoint: Electric vehicle plan: A healthy move, or a ‘forced transition’?

Lawmaker disputes electric vehicle plan as unneeded ‘mandate’


Danny Short is a Republican representing Seaford’s 39th District in the House of Representatives.

The commentary written by the director of the Delaware chapter of the Sierra Club supports the Carney administration’s initiative to ban the sale of new gasoline and diesel cars, trucks and SUVs. The piece is a skillful weave of facts, misrepresentations and omissions that frame the pending regulations merely as a way to give Delawareans “cleaner options at their local car dealer.”

Under California’s Advanced Clean Cars II regulations, which Gov. John Carney has directed our state to adopt, the sale of new, traditionally fueled light-duty vehicles would be rapidly scaled down starting in fall 2025 (model year 2026), replaced with the required sales of new zero-emission vehicles.

What are zero-emission vehicles? Under the regulations, they can be plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Proponents of the new regulations tout the availability of plug-in hybrids — which can use gasoline or diesel — as one reason for dismissing the concerns of Delaware consumers. However, they gloss over the limited availability of new hybrids. The regulations dictate that hybrids can account for no more than 20% of total zero-emission vehicle sales.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are not a viable option either. They have no supporting infrastructure and are unlikely to be obtainable or practical anytime in the next decade. Realistically, the zero-emission vehicle sales mandate is primarily a battery electric vehicle mandate.

The Sierra Club column claims that the new regulations will slowly increase “the number of electric vehicles and hybrids available and sold in the state over the next 10-12 years.”

The forced transition the new rules would impose is more aggressive than this statement would lead you to believe.

Starting in fall 2025, about 1 of every 3 (35%) new cars, trucks and SUVs sold in Delaware will be required to be a zero-emission vehicle. The percentage of mandated ZEV sales quickly rises every year afterward. By fall 2030, more than three-quarters (76%) of all new vehicle sales must be zero-emission. In fall 2034, all new vehicle sales would be zero-emission — effectively banning new fuel-powered vehicles.

Under these regulations, Delawareans seeking a new car will quickly find it difficult to purchase anything other than an electric vehicle. Dealerships in Maryland and New Jersey won’t be of any help. Those states are both imposing the same electric vehicle mandate on their citizens.

Additionally, buying a new fuel-powered vehicle anywhere out of state after the start of 2035 will not be possible. The new rules ban registering any new noncompliant vehicle in Delaware.

Mandate proponents falsely claim the sale and ownership of used gasoline and diesel vehicles will be unaffected by the new rules. In actuality, the regulations include stricter emission standards for internal combustion engine vehicles, imposing higher operating costs on owners, coercing them to buy electric. Used cars will also become more expensive, as supply drops and demand increases.

Mandate supporters maintain the state must adopt EVs to improve air quality, especially in the Philadelphia metro area, including New Castle County. But a 40-year review of Philadelphia’s annual air quality index shows a steady, dramatic improvement. In 1981, 156 “unhealthy” days were recorded. That number dropped to just six days in 2019 (pre-COVID-19). The number of “good” days (the best category) jumped from 18 in 1981 to 244 in 2019 — all without any significant contribution made by electric vehicles.

Even Gov. John Carney, whose directive started the process of promulgating the electric vehicle mandate regulations, concedes that most of the state’s air pollution is not produced by Delawareans. Writing in a June 2018 opinion column lamenting the lack of pollution controls on out-of-state power plants, the governor stated that “90% of (Delaware’s air) pollution comes from other states.”

Delaware does not need an electric vehicle sales mandate. Many vehicle manufacturers have already made firm commitments. However, EVs are not the right choice for everyone. EV range, utility and load-hauling capability remain challenges in many situations. And they impose greater hardships on modest-income families and those living without in-home charging options (apartments, condos, urban areas with on-street parking).

The underlying hubris of the electric vehicle mandate proponents is that anyone who disagrees must be forced to comply for their own good. I believe most Delawareans know when they’re being sold a lemon, even when the pitch is delivered with the skill of a used-car salesman.

Consumers should have the freedom to choose the vehicles that best meet their needs and means. Electric vehicles will be adopted as the technology matures, prices moderate, and they become more attractive. Government should not be forcing the issue.

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