On Nov. 16, the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board and the Environmental Improvement Board adopted clean vehicles rules after a joint public hearing.
The rules align New Mexico’s air quality emissions standards with those of other states and promotes the transition to zero-emission vehicles without an in-state rebate program available to purchasers of electric vehicles.
The rules require manufacturers to ship an increasing percentage of zero-emission vehicles to New Mexico dealerships to have for sale starting in 2026.
In 2026, 43% of cars and light-duty trucks shipped to New Mexico must be zero-emission. By 2031, 82% of these vehicles must be zero-emission, according to the new rule.
The rules also require an increasing percentage of zero-emission, commercial heavy-duty trucks to be shipped into the state to have for sale, starting with 15% in 2026.
Although the rules do not require a complete transition, the high cost of these vehicles is concerning to Pete Domenici Jr. – attorney at Domenici Law Firm. He spoke about the impact the transition could have on rural, low-income New Mexicans at a joint public hearing on Nov. 13 as a representative for the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association.
“When you hear the evidence, you will see the burden of the legislation will be placed on low-income poor New Mexicans,” Domenici Jr. said.
According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price for an electric vehicle was $53,469 in July 2023. Zero-emission vehicle prices have consistently dropped due to competition, innovation and government subsidies, according to Business Insider.
If manufacturers don’t meet the new standards in the time frame mandated, they have the option to use a credit system, according to the Governor’s press release.
Credits are received from shipping extra zero-emission vehicles to any state that has adopted the same rules, or delivery of zero-emission cars to New Mexico before the rule goes into effect in 2026, according to the Governor’s press release.
The states that have adopted the same emissions standards are California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.
Johnnye Lewis, University of New Mexico professor and AQCB Board member, spoke about the need for cheaper zero-emission vehicles in New Mexico.
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“I think all of us were very concerned about the fact that New Mexico needs a rebate program, because the costs are high in this new market,” Lewis said.
In this situation, a rebate program would ensure a partial refund to the buyer or dealer after the purchase of a zero-emission vehicle, lowering its cost.
“There was a lot of confidence that the legislature this year would be passing a rebate program. The federal rebate program is changing somewhat to be a little less restrictive, and to not be a return on taxes, but more direct cash to dealers,” Lewis said.
Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Stephanie Schardin said at a legislative hearing earlier this month that Michelle Lujan Grisham will likely pursue tax credits for new and used electric vehicle purchases during January’s legislative session, according to AP.
Starting Jan. 2024, federal tax credits will be available to buyers of electric cars, according to NPR.
Lewis said she is also concerned about the lack of electric vehicle charging stations in New Mexico.
“I think it is a very real concern that there are not, at this point, enough chargers to accommodate that transition,” Lewis said.
According to the New Mexico Department of Transportation, there were 707 total electric vehicle charging stations as of Nov. 25. These chargers are centered mostly in urban areas and are more sparse around southeastern New Mexico.
New Mexico has an upcoming project to expand the electric vehicle charging infrastructure with $38.387 million from federal formula over five years, according to Jerry Valdez, executive director of NMDOT.
The project will supplement the creation of charging stations by private industry with a goal of a charging station every 50 miles in New Mexico, Valdez said.
Most electric vehicle charging is done at home, making the goals of the infrastructure project to develop interstate travel with electric vehicles, Valdez said.
“If you go further than the (car’s charge) range allows, then the infrastructure that's been built out – both by the private and public sector at this time – should meet the needs from a national electric vehicle infrastructure perspective,” Valdez said.
The need for action regarding greener infrastructure is urgent, Lewis said.
“The climate is not going to stop. And it's only by kickstarting a system and trying to build the market, the infrastructure and the production simultaneously, that any kind of change is going to go forward,” Lewis said.
Nate Bernard is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DailyLobo