DNREC announces regulations that stop short of California electric vehicle mandate

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DNREC photo of charging station.
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The Secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources is issuing clean vehicle regulations that are less strict than the controversial 2035 California standards.

The regulations require automakers to deliver more zero-emission vehicles for sale in Delaware. Zero-emission (ZEV) options that include battery-electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and fuel-cell vehicles.

Starting with model year 2027, 43% of new cars and trucks sent to Delaware for sale will be ZEVs. The percentage will increase to 82% in 2032. The regulations will expire in model year 2033. Changes will be phased in and regulations do not prohibit the sale or use of internal combustion engine vehicles.

The decision was announced by a DNREC Secretary’s Order and is set for publication in the Delaware Register of Regulations on Dec. 1.

The regulations came after a sometimes heated. public comment process over the California standards that would have phased in sales of electric and hybrid vehicles, with 80% of cars, SUVs and trucks being all-electric by 2035, with the remainder plug-in hybrids.

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“By adopting the revised regulation, DNREC aims to protect public health, reduce emissions, and align with Delaware’s climate goals – all while providing consumers with cleaner and more sustainable transportation options,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “This decision will result in cleaner air in Delaware and strengthen protections for communities overburdened by exposure to tailpipe pollution.”

Extending the requirement only through 2032, rather than 2035, will still help Delaware reduce emissions and support a market for clean cars. It also addresses concerns raised in the public comments the Department received, according to a DNREC release.

Increasing the number of ZEVs on Delaware roads, along with building out the state’s electric vehicle charging network, are key strategies outlined in Delaware’s Climate Action Plan.

Through the federal Inflation Reduction Act, federal tax credits and rebates are available for ZEV purchases. In addition, DNREC currently offers a rebate of up to $2,500 for purchasing a new electric vehicle.

Lower-cost models are increasingly available, although the average price remains above $50,000regularly updated list will provide car shoppers a reference to vehicles eligible for the rebate.

Delaware is working to expand its ZEV charging infrastructure to meet the increased demand for charging from more electric vehicles on the road, including stations located along major highways and closer to rural and underserved areas.

DNREC will evaluate progress by using tracking tools to conduct annual program reviews. These annual reviews will confirm the delivery of zero-emitting vehicles to Delaware and indicate that advancements in technology, supply chains, affordability, and battery performance are occurring in the automotive industry as anticipated.

States outside California have modified its 2035 standards, sometimes after heated opposition.

In Delaware and other states, Republican lawmakers and the Caesar Rodney Institute mobilized opposition, citing issues ranging from freedom of choice, a lack of charging stations, fires and higher costs of ZEVs. Backers claimed opponents were making misleading claims.

The revised regulations may allow opponents to claim a partial victory.

Meanwhile, Connecticut’s governor scrapped 2035 standards after signs that legislators would reject the mandate. In New Jersey, auto dealers are lobbying to reverse a decision this month to adopt the California standards. In Delaware, the final decision is up to the DNREC secretary. An attempt to leave the issue to the Legislature failed.

A DNREC release indicated that other states have modified the California standards.

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