Achieving cleaner air in New Jersey and better health for our residents are at the heart of the recently released NRDC/ Sierra Club study that looks at how the Advanced Clean Car II (ACCII) regulation could impact both. These are critically important goals that everyone can support, but they are only part of what we should be looking at.
Dealers are all-in on selling EVs and agree that electrification of more and more vehicles would clean the air, slow climate change and save lives. The question is how do we get there and do so without unintended consequences that will slow or roll to an EV future harming the very consumers we are trying to help?
The study paints a very promising picture of how New Jersey would benefit if it adopted ACCII. But the underlying assumption that the EV market will grow exponentially even as EV prices remain high and publicly accessible charging infrastructure remains scarce and unreliable strikes us as overly optimistic. If the authors of the NRDC study adjusted the rate of market penetration for EVs based on a slower rate of consumer acceptance and modeled fewer new EVs and more older ICE vehicles — assuming consumers would just hold onto their cars longer if they don’t favor the choices or can’t afford the vehicles offered for sale – you come up with a very different set of less advantageous environmental outcomes.
The study compares the adoption of ACCII to “the status quo” of ACCII, which became effective in 2015 and continues to be applicable through 2025 model year vehicles. ACCI includes mandated, year-over-year increases in EV sales from 2015 through 2025. ACCI says New Jersey should be at 22% EV sales this year. We currently stand at less than 10%, well below where we should be. Our status quo/business as usual shows that the ACCI purchase requirements have not been achieved.
ACCII super-charges the EV purchase mandate and requires EV sales to grow more than 25% in just a few years. And the ACCII manufacturer and purchase mandates continue to increase aggressively until New Jersey presumably hits 100% EV sales in 2035. This aggressive trajectory has no precedent in New Jersey, is not realistic and will harm consumer choice and vehicle affordability. Consumers will be forced to buy only what manufacturers are required to produce or they will hang on to their older, less environmentally friendly vehicles for a longer period of time.
None of the admirable goals discussed in the report will be reached unless consumers CHOOSE to replace their internal combustion vehicle with an EV. Consumers will decide when New Jersey gets to 100% EVs, NOT government. To be clear, ACCII requires that manufacturers “put into service” EVs, not that consumers buy the vehicles. The increase in registrations of EVs expected by ACCII can only happen when consumers decide to buy them.
The bottom line is that ACCII is not the only game in town, and it may not be the best option. New Jersey has a choice of adopting the ACCII rule or the newly proposed, more stringent EPA Clean Car Rule. We all share the same goal- getting more EVs on New Jersey roads to benefit the Garden State environment and our most vulnerable residents’ health. The choice in rulemaking is NOT between ACCII and ACCI; it’s between ACCII and EPA’s new rule. It would have been helpful if NRDC/ Sierra Club modeled the health and environmental benefits under ACCII to the new EPA clean car rule, as that would have offered a more objective analysis supporting one rule over the other.
We can’t forget about consumers. We need to advocate for their financial well-being, as well as their physical health. Consumers want choice, affordability, and an accessible and trustworthy infrastructure. They will react negatively if their choices are severely curtailed, affordability spirals out of control, or an inadequate charging infrastructure leaves them reluctant to choose an EV.
We look forward to working with the NRDC, Sierra Club and all other EV stakeholders to develop comprehensive, consumer-focused and realistic policy options aimed at growing consumer demand for EVs, rather than automatically selecting one plan, especially one that inflates supply with government mandates but does nothing to address the obstacles to increasing demand for EVs.