By John Irwin
Published October 20, 2022
It’s time to commit to an electric transportation future. That much most of us in the environmental movement can agree on. However, how do we get there in a timely fashion? One policy that has pushed EVs to become more affordable and easier to purchase is the Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC2) Rule, also known as the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Standard. Fourteen states have already adopted the ACC1 program as of August 2022 and are already adopting, or looking to adopt, the updated version.
What is ACC2?
Delaware needs to adopt the ACC2 program as almost every state around us has. ACC2 is designed to achieve the state’s long-term emission reduction goals by requiring auto manufacturers to deliver and sell a specific number of the very cleanest cars available to purchasers in each ACC2 state. This does not require car buyers to buy them, the regulation and pressure is on the car maker, not the car buyer. These vehicle technologies include full battery-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles. The ZEV portion of the regulation is part of the broader Advanced Clean Cars II package of regulations, a set of tailpipe regulations put in place to limit smog-forming and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The goal is to transition to selling only new cars with these clean technologies by 2035. People could still buy and sell used gas-powered cars, but new ones would no longer be delivered in ACC2 states after 2035. However, we also know that almost every auto manufacturer has already committed to not making and selling any more gas-powered cars after that year.
Why do we need it?
Delaware has dangerous levels of ozone smog and particle pollution, both of which can cause premature death and other serious health effects such as asthma attacks, cardiovascular damage, and developmental and reproductive harm. This is harmful to all of us but particularly children, older adults, pregnant women, and anyone living with chronic disease.
Transportation is also the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions which are causing the climate emergency disrupting our weather and ecosystem, threatening our coastal communities with flooding and our agricultural economy with saltwater intrusion.
Battery-electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have ultra-low smog-forming and GHG pollutants, even over the life of a vehicle, which includes the vehicle’s fuel production emissions. Even compared to 2025 vehicles meeting the strictest smog and GHG fleet standards, ZEVs and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles are significantly lower emitting and will be essential in order for the light-duty vehicle fleet to achieve long-term emission reduction goals.
Delaware needs to adopt this program to get access to the clean car options available in those states which have adopted it. Manufacturers supply cars to those states first. With the extremely limited supply of low or zero-emission cars so far, Delawareans have to go out of state where ACC2 has been adopted to find electric cars.
What’s the benefit of ACC2?
Rapid adoption of clean cars will reduce the amount of dangerous ozone and particulate matter pollution throughout the state and particularly in areas near heavily trafficked roads. These often are already overburdened and underserved communities. This will save lives and money both for individuals and everyone as it lowers healthcare expenses.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is urgently needed to slow the accelerating effects of our warming atmosphere and oceans on our climate overall and the severity of weather events we’re experiencing now.
Additionally, car buyers will have access to the best technology available at affordable prices here in Delaware, rather than having to go out of state to purchase these cars. Most states that adopted ACC1, and have moved to ACC2, have also seen a far larger investment from private companies for charging infrastucture.
How will this affect me?
Will the government be taking my gas-powered car? No! You can still drive, buy and sell used gas-powered cars. However, most car manufacturers will phase out gas-powered new cars by 2035 regardless of this program.
I can’t afford an electric car. Aren’t they just for rich people? There are more and more choices of electric cars at lower price points every year. Delaware has an incentive program with rebates up to $2500 for new battery electric vehicles. There are also federal tax credits for buyers of used electric vehicles up to $4000 or 30% of the sales price, whichever is lower. And a tax credit of $7500 for a new car. There are some requirements to meet, but electric cars are rapidly coming down in price as more manufacturers offer them. A recent article from the New York Times shows how some EVs have already reached the same price level as their gas counterparts: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/10/business/electric-vehicles-price-cost.html
EV’s don’t have enough range. You can’t travel very far without running out of electricity.
Americans drive an average of 40 miles a day, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Even the shortest-range electric vehicles can travel more than twice that distance before needing to be recharged. Among affordable EVs, the Nissan Leaf can run for an average of 150-200 miles on a charge, while the Chevrolet Bolt EV ups the ante to 238 miles.
EVs are unsafe
As for concerns over EV batteries catching fire – perhaps even exploding – in a collision, appear to be greatly exaggerated. A recent in-depth investigation on the subject conducted by NHTSA concluded that the frequency and severity of fires and explosions from lithium ion battery systems are comparable to or perhaps slightly less than those for gasoline or diesel-powered models.
EVs aren’t any ‘greener’ than gas-powered autos
Electric motors convert 75 percent of the chemical energy from the batteries to power the wheels. By comparison, internal combustion engines (ICEs) only convert 20 percent of the energy stored in gasoline. What’s more, EVs emit no direct tailpipe pollutants. Some argue they still pollute the atmosphere, at least indirectly, via the power plants that produce the electricity necessary to operate them. At that, a study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists concluded that EVs are generally responsible for less pollution than conventional vehicles in every region of the U.S.
Electric cars are costly to maintain and repair.
EVs cost less to keep running than gas-powered vehicles. EVs don’t require regular oil changes or tune-ups, and there are far fewer moving parts to eventually fail and need replacing. EVs use a simple one-speed transmission and eschew items like spark plugs, valves, fuel tank, muffler/tailpipe, distributor, starter, clutch, drive belts, hoses, and a catalytic converter.