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Auto industry clashes with state, EV advocates as boards consider regulation changes

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Don Craig | Government Communica
Province of British Columbia

A dayslong hearing aimed at creating regulations to guide the transition away from fossil fuels to electric vehicles wraps up this week.

For three days, stakeholders with the automotive industry and the state have been making their case to the state Environmental Improvement Board and the Albuquerque-Bernalillo Air Quality Control Board as to why New Mexico is or isn’t ready for a serious transition to EVs.

Geared much like a court case with testimonies and cross examination of witnesses, the hearing will end with deliberations on Thursday.

Better known as the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) and Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II) rules, the regulations would, at first glance, mandate a slow transition for 82% of all new vehicles sold at dealerships to meet zero-emission standards by 2032.

That number would go to 100% by 2035.

State officials heard from supporters and opponents of the proposed rules – including automotive dealers and environmental advocates.

Mark Franklin works in the automotive industry. He’s mostly worried about the bottom line of EVs.

“I don’t think that the common New Mexican can afford it.” Franklin said. “Also, in the automotive industry, we still have to train technicians and workforce. That’s going to be a huge expense too.”

On average, new electric vehicles do cost about $10,000 more than their gas-powered alternatives, according to Kelley Blue Book. But, yearly maintenance of an EV is significantly lower than a gas-powered vehicle.

Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, supports the rule and said this is a Kodak moment.

“Kodak knew that digital photography was coming and didn’t do anything about it,” Feibelman said. “This is our early adoption moment. This is us becoming a national leader, instead of a national loser.”

In addition, the rules would bring New Mexico up to California’s low-emission vehicle regulations. They’re considered a gold standard and have been adopted by 17 states and the District of Columbia. Analysts say this would help streamline and standardize EV vehicle design processes nationwide.

Although New Mexico’s EV infrastructure is growing, there are clear concerns about the charger equity in rural portions of the state.

After her controversial veto of EV tax credits approved by the legislature in 2023, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she will pursue similar tax credits in the next session.

Public comment can be submitted until 6:00 p.m. Wednesday.

Updated: November 17, 2023 at 5:24 AM MST
On Thursday night, the New Mexico Environment Improvement Board voted to adopt the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) and Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II) rules 3-2. The Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board voted to adopt the standards unanimously.
Bryce Dix is our local host for NPR's Morning Edition.
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