My take: A compelling case for a delay in 2035 electric vehicle mandate

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The comments continue to pour in on the proposed 2035 electric vehicle standards prior to a decision by DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin on whether to proceed with the California mandate that eventually eliminates sales of vehicle-powered only by internal combustion engines in about a decade. A look at comments in the early going shows a majority against the proposal. Earlier, an unscientific survey of readers of this newsletter came and polling of Democrats came up with similar results.

The state Republican Party has seized on the issue with town halls and a rally to mobilize opponents. Many comments, both for and against, are based on boilerplate arguments.

Those going off script are unhappy with the inability to settle the issue at the voting booth or in the General Assembly (Delaware has no direct voting mechanism. Also, a rules procedure is in place that allows Garvin to make the final call).

Others pass along worries about repair shops going out of business and what to do about dead batteries (EVs still have brakes, tires and complex computer systems. Maintenance costs are much higher when it comes to batteries. Still, batteries can be recycled and eventually rebuilt).

Others pass along myths including one on fires. While often difficult to fight, fires in EVs are far less common than in gas-powered vehicles. The measurement is based on fires per 100,000 vehicles and does not reflect the relative rarity of EVs. The narrative has been driven by TV “blowed up good” footage beloved by local stations. More worrisome are vehicle fires in hybrid gas-electric vehicles that are far more common in Delaware than EVs.

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Largely ignored by both sides is the fact that GM, Ford, and others forecast that only EVs will be sold by 2035. Even the CEO of petroleum giant ExxonMobil believes no gas vehicles will be sold in 2040.

The most compelling argument recently sent my way comes from a Delaware auto dealer Jim Ursomarso of Union Park. Ursomarso is dealing with current challenges that include unsold EVS due to a lack of interest in cost and battery range. It brought back memories from a year ago when a dealer lot across the line in Elkton, MD was empty except for a couple of Chevrolet Bolts, a small, boxy EV that doesn’t turn any heads and was not eligible for a federal tax credit because GM made to many electrics under outdated legislation from the Obama era. More compelling Chevy models are said to be on the way this fall.

Ursomarso worries that the mandate, coupled with the higher price of electrics, will drive customers away. He has cited shortages in labor and equipment in setting up high-speed charging systems. Ursomarso enjoys driving EVs while conceding that at current prices it’s mainly available to the well-to-do.

Ursomarso suggests that DNREC and the governor should devise an alternate plan, perhaps in the form of a bigger state rebate for EVs to deal with price issues and confusion over the federal tax credit that now applies to only a handful of EVs. The overly complex rules are a creature of compromises with Congress and its army of special interests.

The real-life experiences make delaying consideration of the rules by a year or two a no-brainer. Based on current forecasts, by that time far more electrics will be on dealer lots, and we’ll have a clearer picture. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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