Rumors have been circulating within the Capitol this week that lawmakers may be summoned for a special session. This session expected just weeks before the General Assembly resumes on Feb. 7, may involve a controversial vote on whether to ban the sale of new gas-powered automobiles by 2035.
While the information remains unconfirmed, the question remains why Gov. Ned Lamont and lawmakers are opting for this approach. There is also the possibility that the General Assembly, recognizing the unpopularity of the mandate, may ask for a study on the impact of its implementation, kicking the issue until after the 2024 state election.
Yet, if brought for an “up or down” vote, the concern is that such an unpopular regulation would be decided without public input, as the special session process circumvents the necessity of a public hearing. Initially, the mandate from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) was pulled from a vote in the Legislative Regulation Review Committee by the Lamont administration for not securing enough support. Nevertheless, the governor promised to return to the issue.
Despite the push by progressive lawmakers and environmental organizations, EVs are not popular among Americans across the country.
Car rental company Hertz announced last week (Jan. 11) in a regulatory filing, that they have made a “strategic decision” to sell off an estimated 20,000 EVs from its U.S. fleet — about one-third of its global EV fleet — citing the depreciation resale value and high cost of repairs.
The announcement comes less than a year after the White House praised the company for accelerating “the transition to electric vehicles.” It is important to point out that Hertz reportedly saved $1.26 billion from government corporate welfare subsidies in their original purchase from Tesla.
The company plans to use a portion of the proceeds from the sale to purchase gas cars to meet customer demand.
Consumers are also starting to realize that EVs may not live up to the hype surrounding them. Frustration is growing among some as the actual battery ranges fail to match the expectations listed on window stickers. According to Consumer Reports (CR) — an independent, nonprofit member organization known for its non-biased product studies — almost half of the 22 EVs they tested fell short of their Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-estimated ranges when driven at highway speeds.
Car efficiency is determined by how far a vehicle can travel on a tank of gas or, in the case of EVs, the range achievable on a full battery charge.
CR’s findings show that at a constant highway speed of 70-mph some tested EVs fell up to 50 miles short of their advertised ranges. The discrepancy arises because, unlike traditional gas cars and hybrids that provide separate city and highway ranges, EV range estimates combine both into a single figure, as per standards set by the EPA. CR observed that EVs “tend to be less efficient on highways than in cities.”
Alongside Car and Driver and SEA International, CR has urged the EPA to incorporate a highway-speed range test and make the data accessible to consumers. However, EPA spokesperson Shayl Powell responded that the current range estimates are designed to fit what the agency considers the most relevant information on the limited space of a window sticker, adding, “It would be premature to say how we might adjust the label while our review is ongoing.”
Furthermore,the Wall Street Journal reported that the federal government is allowing manufacturers to exaggerate EV range estimates to make them appear more efficient than internal-combustion vehicles.
Unlike gas cars, which manufacturers subject to testing in controlled laboratory conditions to ensure compliance with federal efficiency rules, EVs conversely follow a different protocol due to a federal rule allowing manufacturers to multiply efficiency by 0.7.
According to Car and Driver, gas vehicles averaged 4.0 percent better fuel economy than what was stated on their labels in a 75-mph highway test. However, EVs had an average range that was 12.5 percent worse than what was advertised on the vehicles’ window sticker.
These inflated figures aren’t only used for marketing purposes to boost EV car sales, but also used to obtain efficiency compliance credits that can be traded for cash. These credits are given to automobile manufacturers that produce and sell EVs and low-carbon-emitting cars. Carmakers are required to obtain a certain number of credits a year and failure to meet this goal could result in hefty fines. This leaves manufacturers to either comply or purchase credits from other companies with excess or face financial penalties.
Tesla has made billions off this scheme — more than $4.8 billion between 2020-2022. Environmental groups have called for the federal government to do away with the multiplier, but car makers have asked the White House to delay making any changes.
As much of the country has been experiencing freezing temperatures this week, EV owners are witnessing another instance where their vehicles fall short of expectations. In Chicago, EV owners found themselves stranded with dead batteries and insufficient and poorly functioning charging stations.
As motorists grappled with the challenges of overnight battery drainage in the frigid temperatures, they encountered further complications with malfunctioning chargers. Reports emerged of individuals waiting in long lines, only to discover that the chargers were either not functioning properly or not working at all. For those lucky enough to avoid a complete battery drain and the need for expensive towing, the wait time for their batteries to recharge stretched up to five hours.
CR explains that cold weather has an impact on the battery chemistry when a vehicle is parked, slowing down the chemical reactions responsible for generating power. Additionally, for those fortunate enough to wake up without a completely drained battery, the use of interior car heaters, such as cabin heat, defroster and seat heaters, poses a significant drain on batteries. This becomes a notable concern for individuals waiting in long lines for public chargers when their battery levels are already low.
News isn’t much better for those thinking about purchasing a new or used EV. The recent United Automobile Workers (UAW) union settlement with American car manufacturers has potential consequences for car buyers. Ford estimates that the agreement will cost the company $8.8 billion over the five-year contract period, while General Motors (GM) faces a more substantial impact with an estimated cost of $9.3 billion, which includes new contracts with both UAW and Canadian union, Unifor.
It is estimated that the deal — which includes substantial raises and cost of living adjustments over the next five years — is projected to increase the cost per vehicle between $575 and $900 by the contract’s expiration in 2028.
To offset these costs, analysts suggest that companies are likely to increase vehicle pricing. However, more expensive cars are not the only concern for car buyers. The availability of new EV inventory is also an issue. Ford has announced plans to postpone $12 billion in EV investments, delaying the construction of an EV battery plant in Kentucky and scaling back plans for a $4 billion electric truck plant in Michigan. Additionally, Ford recently announced they will be cutting production on its F-150 Lightning pickup truck due to softened demand for EVs
Car buyers who have been benefiting from federal tax credits will now find their options limited. Starting January 1, 2024, in an effort to reduce dependence on foreign countries, particularly China, for critical minerals required in the production of EV batteries, changes have been made.
The tax credit, capped at $7,500, will no longer be applicable to EVs that use internationally sourced components. This past November, the Biden administration outlined rules specifying which types of vehicles would be excluded. This includes companies fully or partially controlled by the governments of China, Iran, North Korea and Russia. While the credit is now redeemable at the point of purchase, many cars will either be ineligible or receive a reduced credit compared to previous years. For example, the Tesla Model 3 — the second-best-selling EV in 2023 — will see its credit cut in half and is now only eligible for $3,750 due to its use of a Chinese-made battery.
Ultimately, this change will limit the availability of cars for those in the middle and low-income classes who already face challenges affording or securing financing for new EVs.
In light of the recent challenges faced by the electric vehicle industry, the rush to possibly enact legislation without public input underscores the need for a more equitable and inclusive approach. This would guarantee that decisions align with the interests and concerns of the public, promoting a legislative process that is transparent and democratic.
This Week on Yankee’s Podcast Y CT Matters
With Donald Trump winning the Iowa Caucuses, how will the subsequent primaries play out? How will the other candidates react? Prof. Gary Rose, who teaches political science at Sacred Heart University, gives insights to the 2024 Presidential Election.
Click here to listen