The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee is currently considering whether to recommend House Bill 92 be passed into law. The legislation was sponsored by 7 Democrats and aims to adopt the California Low Emission/Zero Emission (LEV/ZEV) vehicle standards. The bill, like many others, has a seemingly admirable intention of protecting the environment, but what incentives does it actually provide? Is it even helpful in the first place? Let’s take a look.

Under the current California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards that have been adopted by other states (California itself has recently enacted even more stringent rules), ZEV car sales must account for at least 2.5% of vehicle sales, to be bumped up to 8% in 2025. California has adopted Advanced Clean Cars II (ACCII) rules that start at 35% ZEV sales required in 2025, to be phased up to 100% by 2035, with many of the other states seeking to follow suit. In 2019, there were 1,030 EV sales and 1,352,200 total vehicle registrations (vehicle sales by state are not available, at least not without a FOIA request) in New Hampshire. Thus, ZEV sales currently amount to a fraction of a percent of vehicle sales in our state. Bumping this to 2.5% is already several orders of magnitude higher, let alone 8%. Of course, HB92 provides the following language regarding penalties:

Impose a civil penalty not to exceed $5,000 per zero-emission vehicle credit on a manufacturer that produces and delivers for sale in New Hampshire fewer ZEVs or ZEVs than required to meet its ZEV credit obligation under rules adopted by the department in a given model year.

 To avoid this incredibly stiff penalty (imagine missing the quota by 10,000 cars!), NH auto dealers will have to sell fewer standard vehicles (non-ZEVs) to avoid the penalties. 

The bill would force New Hampshire to adopt Clifornias’s environmental laws and comply with them in the future, no matter how California amends them: 

“On or before January 1, 2024, the commissioner of the department of environmental services shall adopt rules…to implement the light duty motor vehicle exhaust emission standards of the state of California section 1961.2 and the light duty motor vehicle greenhouse gas exhaust emission standards of the state of California section 1961.3, and shall amend such regulations from time to time, in accordance with changes in said standards.”

What happens when you reduce the supply of something while demand is held constant? The price must increase. To make matters even worse, the bill’s statement of purpose itself nakedly claims that “New Hampshire is the only state north of New Jersey that has not yet adopted this program”. Firstly, why should New Hampshire adopt any law just to fit in with other states? The Granite State is a beacon of freedom in the union because it carves its own path out. Secondly, this type of rationale suggests that it is only a matter of time before another bill would be proposed to adhere to California’s new standards of 100% ZEV sales by 2035 or later; talk about a slippery slope!

Intent aside, does this bill actually help solve a problem? From the California Air Resources Board website, “while California has made substantial improvements in air quality, the greater Los Angeles region and the San Joaquin Valley are classified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as ‘extreme’ ozone non-attainment areas, meaning the regions do not meet health-based air quality standards”. 

This program is a terrible failure in California, where it was conceived. Meanwhile, the NH Department of Environmental Services asserts that our air meets all current federal standards, and the air quality current data is described as “good” (the best descriptor) for all regions in the state for ozone, fine particles, and sulfur dioxide. In fact, the air quality is good for the overwhelming majority of the year, and is largely affected by seasonal changes. The Live Free or Die state already has very clean air, and as energy technology advances, granite staters will naturally adopt cleaner modes of transportation without the need for increased regulation, not to mention the upside of nuclear energy in New Hampshire.

Another important consideration is the efficacy of ZEVs in a state like New Hampshire. During the polar vortex of 2019, EVs reported a loss of range of up to 30%, as well as drastically reduced charging speeds. Given how far north our state is and the kind of cold weather it experiences, this would essentially cripple vehicles during the coldest weather. This is more than mere inconvenience; a noteworthy loss of range and charging speeds could mean getting stuck on the road and having to choose between climate control or extra range to get to shelter. In the worst of cases, getting stranded in the New Hampshire cold during the winter could lead to a bitter death.

Putting it all together, it seems highly likely that this bill would:

  • Have little to no effect on the actual air quality in our state
  • Raise prices on non-ZEVs
  • Significantly reduce vehicle efficacy in cold weather
  • Drastically reduce economic freedom

Is it possible that technological advances will render ZEVs superior to non-ZEVs in the future? Perhaps. At that time, people will choose to purchase and drive ZEVs all on their own; until that time, auto manufacturers and dealers in our state should be able to enjoy the freedom to sell whichever cars their customers prefer. 

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This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Liberty Block or any of its members. We welcome all forms of serious feedback and debate.