When writing about new EVs and EV availability, we often refer to the ZEV states – those that have adopted California’s zero emission vehicle mandate requiring that between 7 percent and 10 percent (it varies by state) of all new cars sold in 2025 and after must be zero-emission vehicles
These states are important because automakers often limit electric vehicle sales – especially in a model’s first few years – to states that are actively, as a matter of policy, encouraging people to buy or lease EVs.
That means that dealerships choosing to sell EVs in those states typically have specially trained technicians and equipment to service electric powertrains. In non-EV states, finding a shop that can provide quality maintenance and repair can be a real crapshoot.
The ZEV states typically offer financial incentives to boost EV purchases and use, and are the states that public EV charger companies look to first when they are planning new installations.
And, of course, the ZEV states, led by California, are primarily responsible for the slow but inevitable growth of zero emission vehicles in the U.S. There is a lot of international pressure for automakers to build ZEVs – Western Europe, Japan and China all are trying via government policies to reduce or eliminate internal combustion engines. But the main pressure on auto companies to sell ZEVs in the U.S. comes from the ZEV states, not the federal government.
What’s My State?
As of late 2019, there were 10 ZEV states, with an 11th slated to join the club in 2023. Together, they account for about 30 percent of all new cars and light trucks sold in the U.S., which gives them a lot of clout when they are telling automakers to provide EVs or face penalties that can include prohibitions on sales of new internal combustion vehicles.
Alphabetically, the ZEV states and the year each adopted ZEV regulations, are:
New Jersey, 2009.
New York, 1993.
Rhode Island, 2008.
Colorado will add itself to the ZEV states lineup in 2023, but already is one of the most active states in promoting EV sales.
Minnesota also is working to adopt California’s ZEV requirements with a 2024 model year implementation target.
In announcing the planned Clean Cars Minnesota program, Gov. Tim Walz noted that the rules won’t ban internal combustion vehicles but will require automakers to offset the pollution impact of ICEs with very-low and zero-emission models.
“If you want to take your F150 to pull your fish house onto the ice, do that,” he said – referring to the popular winter sport of fishing through the ice on frozen lakes. By lowering greenhouse gas emissions to help combat climate change, the ZEV program, Walz said, will help “make sure there is ice on the lake.”
One More Time
New Mexico is on track under Gov. Lujan Grisham to adopt similar rules.
It will be a second time around. The state previously adopted clean car rules in 2007, but they were repealed in 2013 under Grisham’s predecessor, Susana Martinez, a Republican.
States vs Feds
That effort takes place in the face of an effort by the federal Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump Administration’s fossil-fuel friendly policies, to roll back the fuel efficiency requirements set up under the Obama Administration.
That issue is in abeyance while California and other states sue to block the EPA’s effort.
California and more than a dozen other states also are suing to block the EPA’s separate effort to strip the state of its Congressionally approved right to set vehicle emission rules that are tougher than federal standards.
“While President Trump threatens to rob New Mexico and indeed all states of a valuable tool for combating air pollution and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, New Mexico will stand up and deliver on our commitment to environmental leadership,” Grisham – a Democrat – said in a speech last year.
Delaware, Pennsylvania and Washington haven’t mandated ZEVs yet, but have adopted California’s LEV – low-emission vehicle – rules.
The LEV requirements set declining emissions levels for cars and light trucks, encouraging gas-electric hybrids as well as ever-cleaner internal combustion engines. All of the ZEV states also have adopted the LEV requirements.