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Clean cars: Will the new mandate remain under Republican leadership?

Martin Meissner/AP
FILE - An electric car is charged at the Motor Show in Essen, Germany, Dec. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Republicans may be about to take control in Richmond, but some of the changes Democrats put in place are just now taking effect. One of those changes might impact what you drive.

The market for new cars in Virginia is about to get a bit cleaner. Earlier this month, Virginia's Air Pollution Control Board voted to join about a dozen other states in making new demands on the market for automobiles — mandating a certain percentage of new car sales be zero-emission vehicles. Stephen Haner at the Thomas Jefferson Institute says that's a mistake.

"I think the fact that they're going to ban all internal combustion engines is going to be a big change, and I also don't think it's ever going to happen," says Haner. "I think there's a limit to the market demand for the electric vehicles. I think that's kind of a pie-in-the-sky goal and it's just not going to happen."

The new mandate is that 8% of new vehicle sales must be zero-emission vehicles.

"That is leagues away from elimination of the internal combustion engine," says Harry Godfrey at Virginia Advanced Energy Economy.

"Ultimately it creates a virtuous cycle because then you're creating more market certainty these cars will be on lots, our dealers will be trained to sell them. We will go about actually moving them forward," explains Godfrey. "That gives them more certainty than a pure market dynamic."

Critics of the new clean car standard are hoping Republicans can pass a new law ditching Virginia's participation in a program they say allows California to set the agenda here in Virginia.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.