A group of energy and environmental organizations submitted a petition to state government last week asking that it adopt tougher standards affecting auto emissions.
The main change would call for car manufacturers to provide New Mexico dealers with a higher inventory of zero-emission cars such as battery-driven vehicles and low-emission cars such as plug-in hybrids.
The eight groups that filed the petition with the state’s Environmental Improvement Board include the Sierra Club, Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, Conservation Voters New Mexico and the Center for Civic Policy.
Tammy Fiebelkorn of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project said the group is “just trying to get the ball moving.”
Travis Madsen, transportation program director for Southwest Energy Efficiency, said about 15 states have adopted similar standards or are working towards them.
Joining other states to enact stricter standards “will help tackle the climate crisis, clear the air that our residents breathe, and create jobs building a clean car infrastructure in the state,” Demis Foster of Conservation Voters New Mexico said in a news release.
The coalition hopes the state board adopts the standards by the end of the year. Madsen said the state would have to give manufacturers two years’ notice, so the earliest the standards would kick in would be 2024.
Fiebelkorn said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has expressed support for such a change.
Maddy Hayden of the New Mexico Environment Department said the governor’s administration is “100 percent committed to making New Mexico clean car rules a reality.”
Hayden said the department is fully occupied with developing a rule on ozone as it relates to the oil and gas industry. But the administration expects to file its proposed rules for clean cars in December, she said, and hold formal public hearings in May.
The coalition’s petition also pertains to tailpipe and other emissions from vehicles, although the standards would not differ in that respect from rules set by former President Barack Obama.
The Alliance for Automotive Innovation said battery-electric and plug-in hybrid cars made up about 1 percent of the New Mexico market in 2020.
Madsen estimated the policy, if enacted, would result in at least 6 percent of new vehicle sales being plug-in hybrid and battery-powered electric cars by 2026.
“Consumers can’t buy what isn’t available to them,” Madsen wrote in an email. “Adopting this rule would make more plug-in vehicles available in New Mexico, which would make it easier for consumers to buy them and increase market share.”
Automakers already are shifting to zero-emission vehicles, Madsen said. Every major automaker in the world plans to electrify a much higher portion of their fleets in the next few years, he said.
Electric vehicles are cheaper to operate than conventional cars, he said, since they don’t need oil changes and some other typical maintenance.