Delaware’s Misguided Rush to Adopt Rules to Ban Gasoline and Diesel Vehicles

Posted on 12-13-2022

By State Rep. Jesse Vanderwende
By 2035, all new passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in Delaware will be required to be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). That is the goal of regulations the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) aims to adopt.  

Last March, Gov. John Carney directed DNREC to promulgate regulations to implement California’s Advanced Clean Car II standards – joining 13 other states surrendering their transportation policy autonomy to the Golden State.  

Virtual public workshops have already been held on the new rules. (See notice, above for details on the last two scheduled workshops.) Starting in Model Year 2026 (Fall 2025), 35% of all new cars sold in the First State will need to be zero-emissions. By Fall 2031, more than three-quarters of all cars sold will be required to be ZEVs, with the sale of new gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles banned by late 2034.  

The California Air Resources Board describes the regulations as “a technology-forcing program” that requires vehicle manufacturers to produce an increasing number of ZEVs “to meet air quality and climate change emissions standards.”   

Zero-emissions vehicles fall into three categories: battery electric (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric (PHEVs), and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV). PHEVs still rely partly on traditional fuels and are viewed as a bridge to fully electric vehicles. Fuel cell vehicles are not widely available or practical.  

Even if fully electrically powered, ZEVs are not truly emissions-free since they are usually charged on the power grid. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, last year 60% of the nation’s electrical power was from fossil fuels:  38% from natural gas, and 22% from coal. Nuclear reactors generated 19% of the nation’s total, while solar power produced less than 3% and wind power just over 9%.  

As a farmer and the father of young children, I strongly believe in being a good steward of the land. Our family has heavily invested to incorporate best management environmental practices into our operations. However, I oppose forcing citizens and businesses to buy and operate vehicles they may not want, and for which our state is not ready.   

The California Air Resources Board says their regulations are a two-pronged approach: First, mandate the sale of ZEVs. Second, establish “increasingly stringent standards” for fuel-powered vehicles. The strategy forces the public into electric cars while raising emissions standards for traditional alternatives, making them less affordable and available.  

Less than 1% of the cars, SUVs and light-duty trucks on US roads are electric. Without any consent or input from the public’s elected legislative representatives – Gov. Carney and the agencies under his command are seeking a rapid, potentially traumatic, transition to electric vehicles, despite unresolved massive logistical, environmental, social, and economic concerns.   

Earlier this summer, California Independent System Operator (ISO) had to ask EV owners to avoid charging because of a heat wave burdening the power grid. The ISO’s website describes their system as “one of the largest and most modern power grids in the world.” Could Delaware’s grid support large-scale vehicle recharging under similar conditions?  

What happens if a hurricane hits Sussex? Could we evacuate using vehicles that take 40 minutes or more to recharge — if so-called “fast” chargers were available — while high winds threatened to disrupt power? What happens to vehicles that lose power in traffic jams?    

Vehicle range remains a problem. While ranges for passenger cars are approaching those for fueled vehicles, vehicles pulling loads have problems. In one recent demonstration, a Ford Lightning full-size pick-up truck was only able to travel 85 miles while pulling a medium camping trailer. Separate research done by AAA in 2019 showed that when temperatures drop to 20°F, and an EV’s heater is used to warm the inside of the car, the driving range decreased by 41 percent.   

Electric vehicles tend to be expensive, and disproportionately purchased by high-income households. What impact does this have on the two-thirds of American households that rely on pre-owned vehicles for affordable transportation?    

Vehicle battery manufacturing and recycling are worrisome. The former requires minerals that are energy intensive to obtain and refine using processes that carry environmental impacts. The latter is just as challenging. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, vehicle batteries differ widely, are difficult to disassemble, and it’s “often cheaper for battery makers to buy freshly mined metals than to use recycled materials.”  

There are also business and economic issues to consider. The rapid switchover from fueled vehicles to their electric counterparts will collectively cost consumers, utilities, businesses, and the state and federal governments uncounted hundreds of millions of dollars. Sales, equipment, parts, trained personnel, multiple infrastructures, supply chains, and road system financing will all need to be hurriedly updated, renovated, or created on numerous levels.  

Most of the major players in the automotive industry have already made ambitious plans to either shift most or all of their product lines to electric vehicles. Carmakers, dealers, and citizens will move to electric vehicles on their own as the technology matures, problems are addressed, and EVs become more attractive.   

By imposing the transition through coercive regulatory measures, the Carney Administration is all but ensuring needless turmoil, pain, and expense for all Delawareans. I will be joining with colleagues who share my concerns to introduce legislation to restore consumer freedom in our state.