NJBIA’s Cantor: Mandating sales of EVs will badly hurt economy

He says ban would impact affordability for residents — and business model of auto dealers

The state’s decision to mandate that no new gas-powered cars be purchased in New Jersey by the year 2035 — with targeted annual mandates of electric vehicle sales starting in 2026 — was cheered by numerous environmental groups.

Ray Cantor, the deputy chief government affairs officer at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, felt otherwise.

Ray Cantor. (File photo)

Cantor and others have led an effort against the idea — saying it will be bad for business — to no avail.

“Over the past 10 weeks, nearly 10,000 letters were sent to members of New Jersey’s Legislature asking them to step in to stop a proposed (Department of Environmental Protection) rule that will ultimately mandate what type of car residents can drive — and, in some cases, if they can afford to drive,” he said.

“More than 100 business and labor groups asked the Legislature to step in. Groups representing minorities and lower-to-middle-income residents publicly opposed it, as did lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle.

“Automotive retailers, which have already invested billions in EVs, also warned that a heavy-handed mandate will not work for the dealers — especially with unsold EVs piling up on lots all around the country. The failure of this policy can be seen nationally, as manufacturers cut back on their previous commitments to EVs and have called for a pause in any mandates.”

Needless to say, Gov. Phil Murphy felt otherwise.

“By filing the landmark Advanced Clean Cars II rule, New Jersey builds upon its standing as a national leader in climate action and its participation in the global Accelerating to Zero commitment,” Murphy said. “The steps we take today to lower emissions will improve air quality and mitigate climate impacts for generations to come, all while increasing access to cleaner car choices.

“Indeed, together with my administration’s continuing investments in voluntary electric vehicle incentives, charging infrastructure and the green economy, these new standards will preserve consumer choice and promote affordability for hardworking New Jerseyans across the state.”

State officials said the rule does not impose obligations on consumers or car dealers and provides compliance flexibilities for manufacturers. It requires manufacturers of passenger cars and light-duty trucks to meet an annual zero-emissions vehicle requirement intended to increase the percentage of EVs sold in New Jersey.

The rule also ensures that traditional gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles are manufactured to meet more stringent exhaust emission standards, which will positively impact air quality in New Jersey communities, especially those near high-traffic corridors.

The rule will take effect starting in model year 2027, providing time for auto industry transition and continued development of charging infrastructure and a more robust and cleaner electrical grid in New Jersey. It does not ban gasoline cars, nor does it force consumers to buy EVs. Rather, the rule will provide certainty to vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, utilities and charging infrastructure companies to make the long-term investments that will be crucial to large-scale deployment of light-duty ZEVs and consumer choice.

It also could be overturned by future administrations. Cantor appears on board with that. He said the current rules do not add up.

“The ban on new gas-powered cars flies in the face of calls to make New Jersey more affordable,” he said. “As has been stated repeatedly, we can and should all work to reduce carbon emissions. And the marketplace would have likely seen a natural increase of EV users with an organic time frame to build appropriate capacities.

“This ban of the sale of new gas-powered cars, however, in such an expedited time does not take costs or feasibility into account. It does not take the lack of local and highway infrastructure into account. It does not take grid capacity into account. It ignores consumer choice. It doesn’t take New Jersey residents into account, especially low- and moderate-income families. And it doesn’t take the lack of actual environmental benefit into account.

“The near-term, targeted mandates will increase the prices of both new and used gas-powered cars. And it will prove problematic for the majority of gas-car drivers when a ramp-up of EV users don’t pay into the Transportation Trust Fund.”

DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette obviously disagreed.

“Cleaner cars and trucks mean cleaner air for our children and families, because the tailpipes of our own vehicles are a leading cause of poor local air quality,” he said. “As New Jersey transitions to a zero-emission vehicle future, we will improve our quality of life and public health. At the same time, we will reduce climate pollutants from the transportation sector, the greatest source of planet-warming pollution in New Jersey and the nation.”