New Mexicans will see thousands more electric vehicles available to buy in 2025 when a rule approved by two environmental boards takes effect.

Dubbed the clean-car rule, it will require that electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids make up at least 7 percent of automakers’ new sales within New Mexico — adding up to an estimated 3,800 vehicles.

The rule aligns with California’s standards and is part of the larger effort to cut climate-warming greenhouse gases as well as ground-level ozone and particulates that can cause respiratory problems.

It will undergo a two-year waiting period to allow manufacturers, car dealers and regulators to prepare, and then take effect in the 2026 model year, which begins in January 2025.

The state Environmental Improvement Board and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Air Quality Control Board voted unanimously Thursday to adopt the rule.

Electric vehicle advocates and conservationists called the rule an important step in offering people alternatives to cars that burn fossil fuel.

“New Mexicans for the most part can’t find the EVs that are on the market now, but this will enable that to start happening,” said Noah Long, an attorney with the National Resources Defense Council. “It will encourage manufacturers to bring a great number of EVs that are selling around the country to New Mexico and start cleaning up our skies and cutting climate pollution.”

State officials estimate the rule will eliminate about 130,000 tons of greenhouse gases and more than 1,700 tons of ozone-forming pollutants by 2050.

They also project that charging vehicles rather than buying gasoline will save drivers a total of $237 million in fuel costs in the next three decades.

An automaker’s compliance will be gauged through a system that awards credits for each electric car it sells in the state. A company would have to show a certain number of credits relative to its sales.

And all new vehicles sold in New Mexico from then on would have to meet California’s stricter car-emission standards.

Electric cars made up just 1.7 percent of new sales in the state in 2021. Advocates say it’s still more than double the previous year and will grow when greater supply becomes available.

Long said California is working to boost its electric vehicle standards with the proposed “advanced clean car 2” rule, which would be more “transformational” because it would require a much larger fleet and would call for even cleaner tailpipe emissions from other types of vehicles.

California is expected to adopt the advanced rule in the fall, Long said.

During the hearing, several officials emphasized New Mexico will not be compelled to mirror California’s future regulations.

However, if New Mexico chooses not to remain in step with California, its newly passed rule will cover only the 2026 model year, and then the state will fall under federal regulations, which tend to be less stringent, said Charles de Saillan, a staff attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.

The prospect of New Mexico aligning with California as it toughens mandates concerned some local dealers, who didn’t think they should be forced to carry a certain volume of electric cars, and a farming advocate who argued the push to replace gas-powered cars with more costly electric ones will cause financial hardship in rural communities.

In an email, a fossil fuel advocate argued the rule seems designed to push more of the high-priced cars on consumers who were given only the illusion of weighing in.

“With the swift adoption of this rule, there is no doubt public input was nothing more than a facade because the administrations in Albuquerque and Santa Fe have no real interest in listening to New Mexicans,” wrote Larry Behrens, director of Power the Future’s Western states chapter. “This rule could’ve gone through the Legislature, but supporters would rather use backdoor tactics to force their agenda and hide the real cost to our families.”

Regulators argued the rule simply will make more electric cars available to those who want them and that internal-combustion cars won’t be phased out in this decade.

An automotive trade group spoke favorably of the rule.

“While we’ve never supported mandates, we certainly don’t oppose adoption of these rules,” said Steven Douglas, vice president of energy and environment for the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents car manufacturers.

Automakers are committed to net-zero carbon emissions and plan to spend $515 billion on electrification globally by the end of the decade, Douglas said. They sold 70 different electric car models last year and aim to double that in the next few years, he added.

“This is a new world in every respect,” Douglas said.

Still, to increase market feasibility, the cars must become more affordable to the average buyer, Douglas said, noting a typical blue book price is about $65,000.

A couple of electric vehicle advocates said the prices will come down as more are produced and sold, as commonly occurs with a newer technology.

One conservationist said the rule will help get more electric cars on the road, which is vital in combating climate change and improving the state’s general air quality.

Transportation accounts for 14 percent of New Mexico’s carbon emissions, second only to the oil and gas industry, said Camilla Feibelman, executive director of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter.

“But we have stories from all over the state of people who go into car dealerships and simply cannot get electric vehicles,” Feibelman said.

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