Rallying cry: ‘Yes’ on EVs — but ‘No’ on mandate that doesn’t match economic reality

Rible, DeGesero, Appleton: Saying all new cars sales must be EVs by 2035 isn’t feasible, will have unintended consequences that hurt state, car industry

Dave Rible, the executive director of the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association, said what so many others appeared to be feeling about a mandate from the state that will prohibit the sale of anything but an electric vehicle by 2035:

  • Yes — on clean energy alternatives;
  • Yes — on EVs;
  • No — on an EV sales mandate that doesn’t meet economic realities.

“We support utilizing green technologies to combat the impacts of climate change,” he said. “Our members stand ready, willing and able to use these technologies to deal with these impacts. But today’s action and the pace of that transition is simply incompatible with current infrastructure and economic realities.”

This isn’t just one part of the business world fighting back against another, Rible said. It’s about economic realities. The state’s implementation of the California Advanced Clean Car Rule — which will quickly increase the percentage of EVs needed to be sold (it’s 51% in 2027) does not meet the reality of the market, he said.

Only approximately 10-12% of all cars sold today are EVs.

“What has occurred across the nation should be a warning sign,” Rible said. “The electric bus company Proterra, which existed for nearly two decades, recently filed for Chapter 11 reorganization, unable to overcome the current market difficulties in creating EVs. Other EV startups, like Lordstown Motors, have also filed for bankruptcy. Today’s action could doom other manufacturers to a similar fate.”

Eric DeGesero, the executive vice president of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey, couldn’t agree more.

“It’s ironic that three weeks after Ørsted walked away from the Murphy administration’s plan to build windmills off the Jersey Shore because it’s too expensive, Gov. (Phil) Murphy is now forcing residents to buy something most New Jerseyans do not want because it’s too expensive,” he said.

DeGesero also pointed to economic stats.

“Even with declining manufactures’ pricing and an increase in inventory on dealer lots, the rate of increase in EV sales is slowing. Why? Because EVs are too expensive and New Jersey drivers don’t want them,” he said. “And this doesn’t even account for the myriad of charging and infrastructure issues that our state is ill-equipped to handle.

“According to CarGurus in October 2023, EVs are 28% more expensive than gas-powered cars, translating into an additional $277 per month lease payment. And, once used gas cars become more scarce, due to less new gas cars being sold starting in 2026, the price for used gas cars will surely increase. Unfortunately, this unaffordable mandate will hurt those who can least afford it, and will result in less seniors, teenagers and lower-income families being able to afford a vehicle.”

Jim Appleton, president of the industry group NJ CAR, said this isn’t a decision for the governor to make.

He appealed to the Legislature to step up.

“Gov. Murphy’s morning press release, announcing the adoption of ACCII, is full of glowing reviews from supporters of the California proposal, including many New Jersey mayors who have no authority or oversight responsibilities,” he said. “What’s missing are any statements of support from New Jersey state senators or assemblymembers, including the dozens who spoke out or officially filed comments opposing the adoption of this rule and its unrealistic mandates.

“These elected officials will ultimately have the final word in this matter, and the governor doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge the valid concerns many of them, on both sides of the aisle, have raised.”

The mandate will be tough on the industry — with unintended consequences no one is discussing, Appleton said.

“This heavy-handed government approach is likely to backfire, with many consumers choosing not to buy a new vehicle and, instead, holding on to their older, gas-powered vehicles even longer,” he said. “If consumers cannot afford an EV or it doesn’t meet their family needs, they simply won’t buy an EV here. Instead, they will shop out-of-state to buy the vehicle that fits their budget and meets their needs. As a result, this regulation will slow New Jersey’s roll toward EV adoption and push retail automotive business to states that have not signed on to the California rule.”

Appleton notes that the industry is embracing EVs — just not this.

“Let’s be clear: New Jersey’s neighborhood new car and truck dealerships are ‘all in’ on EVs,” he said. “Indeed, the 500-plus rooftops that make up this critical $40 billion industry already offer 40-plus vehicles with a plug, and that number will soon grow to 140 models in every vehicle category and at every price point.

“The industry agrees that the market must continue transitioning from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles — but disagrees with the Murphy administration’s goal to blindly impose California’s plan on New Jersey’s consumers.”

Rible summed it up this way: Too much, too soon.

“New Jersey is just not ready for this,” he said. “The infrastructure does not exist, nor does the funding to make that infrastructure a reality.

“Again, our members stand ready to make it happen should that funding, and opportunities, happen. Until then, what we need is an approach that most effectively balances our clean energy needs with currently available realities. This does not do that.”