EvoCharge: Minnesota Adopts Clean Cars Standard that Require More Electric Vehicles
New Emissions Rule Means More Dealerships Will Offer the Option.
Minnesota is the latest state — and the first in the Midwest — to adopt California's stricter tailpipe emissions standards and mandate for automakers to get more zero-emission vehicles onto sales lots.
The rules don't take effect until Jan. 1, 2024, for 2025 models, so Minnesotans likely will not see an immediate burst of new electric vehicle options at dealerships. But the adoption sends a clear signal, and vehicle selection is expected to expand in the next 18 months.
Notice of official adoption of the rules was posted Monday in the Minnesota State Register.
Gov. Tim Walz pushed hard for the clean car standards as part of his broader effort to combat the climate crisis and get Minnesota back on track to meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals set years ago by lawmakers.
Transportation is the state's leading source of heat-trapping global warming emissions, but electric vehicle sales have been minuscule in Minnesota.
That likely will change with Minnesota's new standards, and Walz marked the occasion with a quick victory lap tour at Phillips & Temro Industries — and a hockey analogy. The company makes battery warmers and home and commercial electric vehicle charging equipment at its Eden Prairie plant.
"Minnesotans certainly know that old adage, 'You need to skate where the puck is going to be,' " Walz told reporters after the tour. "The puck is going to be in EV vehicles, and that is irrefutable."
Walz was flanked by lawmakers and community leaders who advocated for the standards. Raj Rajan, chairman of the board of directors at St. Paul-based nonprofit Fresh Energy, said the new rules will stimulate clean energy investments, support jobs and improve public health, particularly for people of color disproportionately impacted by the air pollution from vehicles.
"It's a big step in terms of opportunities," Rajan said.
Phillips & Temro Industries president and chief executive Tom Moser said the company's electric vehicle unit is growing. The company added 50 jobs in that unit over the past three years, Moser said, and plans to add 200 to 500 new jobs in the unit over the next three to five years.
"We're starting to hit an inflection point," Moser said.
Eden Prairie Mayor Ron Case, on hand for the event, said the suburb plans to replace its entire fleet with electric vehicles by 2030. The Eden Prairie Police Department got its first Tesla squad car last week, he said, and the officers are jostling to drive it.
"We're going to take great notes and see how it works," Case said.
Walz's move to amp up vehicle electrification prompted serious opposition and a costly fight. The state's auto dealers campaigned against the regulation, and Senate Republicans threatened to withhold state environmental funding until the 11th hour in their unsuccessful effort to force the state to ditch the standards.
The controversy played a role in the early July resignation of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Commissioner Laura Bishop, whose agency led the push for the standards.
In an interview Monday, Bishop said it is "really satisfying" to see the new standards adopted and that she is proud.
"This is a good step forward on climate, and more needs to be done," Bishop said, adding she has no regrets about the struggle to pass the standards.
"I'd do it again," she said.
The Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association, which unsuccessfully sued the MPCA over the clean car rules, issued a statement Monday reiterating that it considers them unnecessary.
"The California Rule puts California bureaucrats in charge of Minnesota industry, and they will impose an artificial supply mandate on the Minnesota marketplace and put Minnesota on track for an outright ban on the sale of combustible engine vehicles," association President Scott Lambert said in the statement.
The group hasn't decided future legal options, and Lambert told the Star Tribune: "Everything is still on the table."
A core issue for Senate Republicans has been that the Walz administration pursued top-down rule-making to establish the clean car standards, instead of working through the legislative process. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, issued a statement accusing Walz of being on an "ego trip" by both issuing mandates and evoking emergency powers during the COVID pandemic.
"Forcing electric vehicles onto car lots before consumers are demanding them will mean everyone pays more for their car — gas, electric or hybrid," Gazelka said.
Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, echoed that in a statement saying the new standard "requires dealerships to stock electric vehicles, even if there is zero consumer demand."
At Monday's event, Walz countered that consumer demand is there and will increase as prices come down.
Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, reflected on the "unprecedented opposition" in Minnesota to the standard and thanked Bishop, who "paid the ultimate price with her job."
"At the end of the day this is going to benefit everybody, and whether we have some scars from this, whether it was difficult, whether it was challenging ... it is worth it because it's an important step," he said.
Rep. Jamie Long, a Minneapolis DFLer and chair of the House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee, said lawmakers will continuing working to pass a state rebate for electric vehicle purchases. The effort failed this year.
More than a dozen states have adopted California's standards under the Clean Air Act. The Trump administration took action to undo those standards, but federal agencies under the Biden administration are expected to reinstate them.
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