The Delaware ZEV Mandate is for New Vehicles, but Impacts Used Cars Too!

Posted on 03-28-2023

By Brent A. Burdge

I attended the recent EV Mandate Town Hall at the Brandywine Fire Company
in Bellefonte. As I listened to DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin’s case for the
proposed regulations, I was struck by the myopic focus of this effort. As concerns
were raised about the high cost of Zero-Emission Vehicles (ZEV, not just Electric
Vehicles) there was little recognition of how the State of Delaware is proposing to
“tamper” with the automotive marketplace for its citizens.

There was an acknowledgment of the current situation that places a $14,000
premium on electric vehicles versus the equivalent combustion-engine version of
the same vehicle. New EV’s currently cost $50-70K and more – well beyond the
reach of many Delaware households. The regulation proposed would fully phase
out sales of combustion-engine vehicles by 2035, starting with an initial
requirement for dealers to have 35% or more of the available vehicles for sale
must be ZEV by the fall of 2026 (2027 Model Year). Currently, market demand for
EV’s/ZEV’s (U.S. Information Agency, March 2023) is projected to be 10% in 2026.
By 2035 it is projected to only reach a 17% market share, yet the State would no
longer be allowing the sale of combustion-engine vehicles – not even Hybrids!

In the Q&A, this was met with consistent reassurances that the regulation only
affects “new car sales” and would not affect the “used car market.” No one
would be “required” to buy an EV or a ZEV, if they didn’t choose to. This
regulation would simply assure Delawareans that those types of vehicles would
be more readily available for the buyers that DID want to purchase them. Right
now, the limited supply of ZEV’s is being directed to other states that have
adopted more restrictive standards. There are a couple of serious problems with
this assertion.

First, current regulations would not allow vehicles that were not compliant with
California regulations to be registered in Delaware (existing law and the result of
the current administration signing on to follow California standards). As the
regulation phased in (2035), people would no longer be able to register new
combustion-engine vehicles, even if they had been purchased in another state.

Second, these regulations would have a dramatic impact on the used car market
in Delaware. We were told that most middle- or lower-income families are not
buying “new” cars, anyway. They rely on used vehicles and would not be
seriously affected by the regulations if they wished to continue to buy and
operate combustion-engine (or even hybrid) vehicles. This is not the case. By
intruding on the market by implementing regulations that are dramatically out of
step with the natural development of demand for EV’s/ZEV’s in the market they
will significantly reduce the availability of suitable used vehicles in the market.
Without new combustion-engine vehicles being sold, the “pool” of available used
vehicles will be reduced and will rapidly age. Within a few years, a family would
not be able to purchase a typical, reliable used car – say 3-5 years old with less
than 50K miles. Instead, they would face a market filled with cars that are rapidly
aging and have higher mileage – 8-10 years old with well over 100K miles on the
odometer. Picture the current images from Cuba, where the market is restricted
by a trade embargo and the local populace is continuing to drive (and repair &
service) vehicles that were made in the 50’s & 60’s! When the market is
constrained by regulations, our legitimate options shrink.

This proposed regulation is not a benefit or a service to the citizenry of
Delaware. The more stringent California regulations were originally brought to
bear in the context of our region being “out of attainment” as we were being
lumped in with the Greater Philadelphia and Camden, NJ regions. Note that every
single air quality reporting station in Delaware is currently “in attainment” and
showing an improving trend. I encourage you to make your voices and
preferences clear to this current Administration (Governor Carney and Secretary
Garvin) and your legislators. This regulation is out of step with the market and
will directly damage the lives of you and your neighbors.