Will new cars be all electric? Drivers debate proposed state mandate
Gov. Ned Lamont wants all new car sales to be electric by the year 2035. At a hearing Tuesday, environmentalists said the proposal will fight climate change and lower asthma rates, while opponents claimed the mandate would cost drivers more than it’s worth.
“IT’S GREAT, MAN”
Jean Delia, of Bridgeport, switched to electric a few months ago. It’s been a challenge, but he’s happy with the decision.
“It's great, man,” he said. “It's about the charging part. Whenever I charge it, it takes quite a while.”
Delia thinks the proposed mandate is a good idea, but dozens of other drivers urged state regulators to reject it, during a virtual hearing before the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
“If EVs are so good, then the people will buy them on their own. They'll want them,” said Alan Shaw, of Stamford. “If they're bad, they have to be forced and coerced into buying them.”
Opponents noted the environmental impact of mining lithium for electric vehicle batteries, but environmental groups countered that EVs are moving toward more sustainable elements.
The Lamont administration is proposing an aggressive timeline to phase out sales of new gasoline-powered cars and light trucks.
By 2026, more than a third of new cars would have to be all-electric or a highly efficient plug-in hybrid. By 2028, that share jumps to half. Three years later, it’s 76%. Finally, by 2035, all new cars would have to be zero (or ultra-low) emissions.
The proposal follows California’s lead. In 2004, state lawmakers voted to adopt that state’s tougher emissions standards. Roughly a dozen other states, including all of Connecticut’s neighbors, are also moving to ban new gasoline vehicles by 2035.
“The opponents who argue that strong standards to reach our emissions targets are too soon, too costly, unrealistic, or not desired by the public, are really being blind to the urgency of our climate crisis,” said Lori Brown, with the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. Environmental groups also sought to clear up a common misconception. Under the new rules, residents could still drive gas-powered vehicles – and buy them used.
“These regulations do not act as a ban on gasoline vehicles,” said Charles Rotherberger, an attorney with Save the Sound. “What they do is they require increasing percentages of so-called zero-emission vehicles to be sold into the Connecticut marketplace, including hybrid electric vehicles.”
But the transition faces numerous obstacles.
Currently, electric vehicles come with higher price tags than traditional cars – although prices are coming down as more models come on the market. Buyers can also qualify for generous state and federal incentives.
There’s also a shortage of EV chargers, especially DC fast chargers that can refill a car in 30-45 minutes. But the state and federal governments are earmarking tens of millions of dollars to building out a charging network, similar to the effort to construct gas stations in the 1920s.
Finally, the power grid needs upgrading. Eversource told DEEP that the effort could cost more than $2 billion.
“We estimate about eight substations would require upgrades on our system, and we would need to build about 14 new electric substations,” said Digaunto Chatterjee, Eversource’s vice president of System Planning.
Eversource and other electric providers are moving toward carbon-free power sources, like wind, solar and hydro. But many of those are still several years away.
All that is why Jean Delia isn't going fully electric just yet.
“I've also got a gas car, so I don't drive this every day,” he said. “It's alright.”
You can submit written comments here until Wednesday at 5 p.m. Top Republicans have asked DEEP to extend the comment period by a week.
After that, a 14-member bipartisan Regulation Review Committee will vote on the proposed EV mandate. The full General Assembly does not have to approve the change.