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The role of Virginia's electric vehicle mandate on this year's election

Cobalt is an important component of lithium ion batteries, like those in many electric vehicles
Keith Srakocic
Cobalt is an important component of lithium ion batteries, like those in many electric vehicles

Abortion and crime are at the top of the list of issues candidates are talking about this election. But, electric vehicles may also be an important issue when the General Assembly gavels into session.

Almost hidden in one of the many attacks Republicans have been making against Democratic incumbents is this one against an incumbent delegate in Henrico County. He drives a Tesla, and he wants you to drive an electric car too.

"I have no problem with him driving a Tesla. But him voting that everybody needs to drive a Tesla I think is the problem," says Derrick Max at the Thomas Jefferson Institute.

He's talking about a bill introduced by Democrats and signed by former Governor Ralph Northam that requires all new car sales in Virginia to be electric by 2035.

"I get moonshot goals, you know, the United States is going to get to the moon by whatever date or we're going to cure cancer by whatever date," Max says. "But I think it was a bad idea."

Ralston King at the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association says EVs are coming whether the deadline is 2035 or 2050.

"Toyota said they want to spend $8 billion on a facility down in North Carolina specifically dedicated to plug-in hybrid and battery-electric vehicles. So, they’re coming," says King. "But is a deadline sufficient to actually get these out into the marketplace? Those are things that consumers have to think about. Politicians are certainly going to run on both sides of the aisle for these items one way or the other. And ultimately voters and consumers will decide."

Like many issues on the ballot, this has found a partisan breakdown. Democrats generally support the mandate. Republicans generally oppose it.

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.