IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

New Mexico's Proposed EV Policy Seems to Have Broad Support

New Mexico's proposed clean-car rule, which received a public hearing yesterday, would require electric vehicles to account for 7 percent of new car sales starting in January 2025.

Electric Car
(TNS) — A proposed rule that would amp up electric car sales in New Mexico as part of the effort to slash climate-warming greenhouse gases got a formal hearing Wednesday, with experts, regulators and residents testifying mostly in favor of it.

Known as the clean-car rule, it would align with California's current standards requiring electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids make up an increasing portion of automakers' new sales within the state.

If passed, it would go into effect in the 2026 car model year, which is January 2025, and initially would require electric vehicles to make up at least 7 percent of new sales. All new vehicles sold in New Mexico from then on would have to meet California's stricter car-emission standards.

The state Environmental Improvement Board and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board received testimony during a two-day hearing and could make a decision Thursday.

State regulators said the rule would reduce greenhouse gases and ground-level ozone by targeting transportation, one of the biggest sources of these pollutants.

"The standards are one of several measures being implemented in New Mexico to combat climate change and rising ozone concentrations," state Environment Deputy Secretary Rebecca Roose told the boards. "The clean-car rule is part of the solution and offers a practical and cost-effective method to curb these emissions."

This regulation would complement a recently passed rule to curb the nitrogen oxides and volatile organics that emanate from oil fields and form ground-level ozone, Roose said.

Advocates also talked about how reducing the ozone and particulates emitted by gas-powered cars will benefit low-income communities near major roadways.

After the clean-car rule takes effect, an automaker's compliance would be gauged through a system that awards credits for each electric car it sells in the state. A company would have to show a certain number of credits relative to its sales.

State officials estimate the rule would eliminate about 130,000 tons of greenhouse gases and more than 1,700 tons of ozone-forming pollutants by 2050.

Electric vehicles made up 1.7 percent of new car sales in New Mexico in 2021.

Although that portion is low, it is double the amount from 2020, showing demand for zero-emission cars is rising, said Claudia Borchert, climate change policy coordinator for the state Environment Department.

The reason the number isn't higher is because supply is limited, due to manufacturers selling more electric cars and plug-in hybrids in states that have clean-car rules, Borchert said. If New Mexico adopts a similar rule, it will see supply ratchet up and, in turn, more electric cars on the road, she said.

The rule would apply mainly to manufacturers, but would cover car dealers, rental agencies, government entities and New Mexico owners, Borchert said.

If the boards approve the rule, it would go on the books July 1 but would have a mandatory two-year waiting period and then take effect in 2025, she said, which would be the 2026 car model year.

The rule wouldn't apply to used cars, semitrucks, military vehicles, construction and farm equipment, buses and custom vehicles, Borchert said.

The 7 percent new sales requirement would bring an estimated 3,800 additional zero-emission cars to the state, Borchert said.

She added, one to four credits would be given to a manufacturer for three types of electric vehicles — battery powered, a fuel cell and "transitional," which is commonly a hybrid.

The number of credits would be based on how far a vehicle can travel without emitting tail-pipe exhaust or needing to be charged, Borchert said.

Not everyone was sold on the effort to spur new electric car sales.

Benjamin Segovia, regional director of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, said the rule would replace gas-powered vehicles with electric ones that many farmers can't afford.

Segovia said he worried New Mexico would try to stay in step with California, whose governor has ordered internal-combustion vehicles phased out by 2035. For that reason, New Mexico should adopt the federal standard for low- and zero-emission vehicles, he said.

"There is potential economic harm to low-income and rural New Mexico farmers, ranchers and citizens," Segovia said. "A California standard is not the right fit for a poor state like New Mexico, where many struggle to find an affordable means of transportation."

A couple of regulators said opening the market to more electric vehicles won't lead to gasoline cars being phased out overnight or even in a decade.

"We'll be broadening the choices beyond what's available today," Borchert said.

Amanda Trujillo Davis, an Environmental Improvement Board member, asked when more affordable electric vehicles might become available to lower-income residents, noting the cars now cost as much as $65,000.

Chuck Shulock, an environmental and climate policy consultant, said the prices will come down over time as more of the cars come on the market, including used ones.

Although there's a higher upfront cost, the electric vehicles will save lower-income owners money in the long run because they typically spend more on gas driving older cars that are less fuel efficient.

Electric cars sustain their efficiency for a long time, Shulock added.

"As clean new cars become clean used cars, those operational cost savings will be passed on to subsequent owners," Shulock said.

©2022 The Santa Fe New Mexican. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.