The Future is… Here?

By Michaela Helean / New Mexico News Port

New Mexico car dealers will be required to offer low-emission and zero-emission vehicles with the production year of 2026 and onward if two proposals from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller succeed this year.

The democratic politicians are coordinating an effort very similar to California’s clean car rules. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order in 2019 directing the state to evaluate ways to reduce greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles sold in the state.

The rule will require that seven percent of the cars offered for sale in the state are below- or zero-emission. For example, the affordable Tesla Model 3 is the best-selling, zero-emission electric vehicle; others include the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt. Low-emissions would be hybrid vehicles like the Volvo XC60 Recharge and the Honda Insight pre-released in late 2021 for the year 2022.

Based on data from the CleanTechnica company, during the year 2021, the most popular Electric vehicle was the Tesla Model Y.

“No one will be required to buy an electric vehicle,” said Environmental Department Policy Coordinator Claudia Borchert, “this rule only requires manufacturers to produce more low-emission or zero-emission cars.” 

Borchert has her own concerns for the future but hopes all needs will be met by the time the rule takes place.

“I am in the market for an Electric Vehicle myself. I am trying to find a vehicle that will work not just for day-to-day use but also my love of outdoor activities,” Borchert said.

However, Rio Grande Foundation President, Paul Gessing stresses that by extent the rule is impeding on basic individual freedom. Gessing believes all major policy issues should go through the legislature and this policy does not do that. 

“The government shouldn’t be mandating which car an individual should buy,” Gessing said,” yes, this petition shifts the focus from buyer to manufacturer but ultimately it takes away a person’s choice of vehicle.” 

“This still impacts the low-income folks who can’t afford an electric vehicle,” said Gessing. He also says even though this policy puts up a progressive face, it is highly regressive.

Consumers won’t be required to buy electric cars, but companies will be required to offer a wider range of environmentally friendlier vehicles.

The state wants to help emissions go down. If the rule is successful in being implemented the only cars affected will be makes and models being made in 2026 and on. By 2030, the rules will result in the reduction of about 400 tons of harmful air emissions and 270 thousand tons of greenhouse gasses annually according to the Governor’s office.

If the rules are successful, New Mexico people will have to consider shortening driving trips, lengthening “fueling” time, and adjusting their budgets to fit in an extensive car payment.

Around two-thirds of the consumer population in the US believe the environmental impact would be for the better if they bought a low-emission or zero-emission vehicle. However, their concerns about cost, reliability and other aspects outweigh the benefits.

 For example, the Master-certified technician for Corley’s Lincoln/Volvo in Albuquerque, Luis Chacon, has a wary eye for both electric cars and hybrid vehicles. He also worries about the increase of electric vehicles he would have to work on.

“There is always a chance of being electrocuted. I could be hurt seriously or I could even die if I were to do anything wrong,” Chacon said.

Chacon is also concerned about prices, not just purchasing a car but repair fees as well. He also worries about the effects an at-home charging port would have on his electric bill.

“Repairs on an electric vehicle can range anywhere from $2.5k to $4k,” Chacon said, “It is really costly.”

According to Pod Point, the time it takes to charge an electric car can be as little as 30 minutes or more than 12 hours. This depends on the size of the battery and the speed of the charging point.

Top-performing electric cars have a range of more than 150 miles, enough to commute to and from Albuquerque and Santa Fe. However, renters like Firestone Technician Advisor Blake Kissinger wonder if there are enough charging stations for him to be able to own an electric car.

“When you are renting an apartment you cannot install the charging port. If I had my own home it would be easier,” Kissinger said.

According to data from the US Department of Energy, there are 176 established electric vehicle charging stations in New Mexico. Click here to see what is near you. Micahaela Helean / NM News Port.

The Governor and members of the Congressional delegation, including Senator Martin Heinrich, announced on Friday that New Mexico will receive $38 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to strategically deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and establish an interconnected network to expand access and reliability.

The Federal Highway Administration has allocated $615 million nationwide to the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program to build out the Alternative Fuel Corridors national network.

“This historic investment to build out the first-ever nationwide charging network will accelerate the adoption of EVs to address the climate crisis, and help drivers save money,” said Heinrich.

He also says it is exciting to see how far electric vehicle charging has come since his days in college where he was part of a project that designed and raced a solar car.

Kissinger also makes the point that the policy change is a necessary cause if New Mexico wants to make an impact on climate change.

“Electric vehicles are a joke. I have shocked myself many times on both EV’s and hybrids,” Kissinger said, “however, this is something that has to happen. I don’t think people are mentally prepared for such a change though.”

One of the less obvious questions on Gessing’s mind is how environmentally friendly will this be?

“While we might not see the environmental impact of mining lithium here in America, it can hurt the environment in other places,” said Gessing. 

Batteries for electric cars and hybrid vehicles are lithium-ion based, similar to a smartphone battery or laptop battery. The only difference is electric car batteries are the size of the car itself.

According to Environmental Health Deputy Director Mara Elana, the  Air Quality Control board and the Environmental Department met on February 9 to approve the scheduled hearing from May 4 to May 6 to start the Clean-cars rulemaking process.

Michaela Helean is a reported for New Mexico News Port and can be reached on twitter @MichaelaHelean