Delaware will adjust its proposed electric vehicle regulations if sales are less than expected, costs of repairing EVs are comparable to gas vehicles and the state is considering a hybrid public comment meeting.
So said Shawn Garvin, secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, during a meeting Thursday with the House Small Business Caucus.
Garvin fielded questions from both business owners and legislators in a meeting that House Minority Leader Mike Ramone said was the most candid he had seen Garvin.
“I’m gonna be honest – he did the best presentation he has done anywhere to date,” Ramone said. “You heard him at his best.”
Ramone said he wished Garvin would hold more meetings across the state to get a better idea of the public’s thoughts on the regulations, especially if Garvin will be the one making the final decision.
The proposed regulations published Saturday follow an executive order from Gov. John Carney that allows DNREC to make rules and enforce rules designed to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road, without going through the General Assembly.
The proposal is facing opposition from Republicans. Ramone and Senate Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, plan to introduce bills to curb DNREC’s ability to regulate vehicles and that require the legislature to vote on any new regulations.
Ramone says he’s spoken to several Democrats about the bills, which he sees as bipartisan, and meant to give the legislature a say in something that will impact so many.
The new regulations require dealerships to increase the number of electric vehicles – which the regs call “zero emission” from 35% in 2026 to 100% by 2035. It does that by forcing manufacturers to deliver that many to the dealers with whom they have contracts.
Public comment on the proposed regulations isn’t until April 26.
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At Thursday’s meeting, Chip Sheridan, president of the Delaware Car Dealers Association, asked Garvin what they should do if electric vehicles are not selling as well as they hope.
“My concern is what happens if demand is not going to pick up in the way that this anticipates,” Sheridan said. “Now the dealers are essentially holding the inventory for a product that might not be progressing the way we had hoped.”
Garvin said the state can adjust the regulation if needed.
“This wouldn’t kick in until model year 2027,” Garvin said. “It will ramp up over the course of time. We will continue to monitor it, and if the demand in the market isn’t there, then we’re gonna have to take a look at that and the infrastructure as well. But everything is geared towards not only, as we’re looking at it here in Delaware, but nationally that is the direction that this is all moving.”
Bob Older, president of the Delaware Small Business Chamber, asked Garvin about the cost of maintenance for electric vehicles.
“That is something that everybody should be worried about,” Older said. “It’s not a matter of the technology isn’t going to come our way. It’s here. It’s now. The cat’s out of the bag. But how are you going to alleviate the economic pain of keeping their fleets alive and keeping the individual in that car safely?”
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Garvin said he won’t argue with a mechanic about car repairs, but he believes that electric vehicles also can be repaired.
“There’s also less things on an electric vehicle versus an internal combustion engine. There’s a lot of trade-offs. But I think these are market issues and anyone who has a fleet, and we have our own…there’s challenges with all of it and part of it is costs continuing to come down as much as costs of anything will come down but will be comparable.”
Garvin said DNREC planned to just hold a Zoom meeting to gather public comment. Now the department is considering doing a hybrid in-person meeting after getting the request from several members of the general assembly.
However, he said, they won’t do county-specific hearings.
“I don’t see a need or a purpose for public hearings in each county,” Garvin said. “We’ve got the technology.”
Zoom meetings can translate up to eight different languages if need be, he said.
Jim Provo, veteran business development officer with the Delaware Small Business Administration, said he’s in favor of the transition of electric vehicles.
But he’s also worried about Delaware being able to keep up with the increased electrical demand.
Garvin said that the department is trying to expand Delaware’s production of renewable energy.
“Obviously our interest will be to have more renewable options for energy so as we’re replacing the carbon way of powering our vehicles, that we’re not just changing it to a transmitting of ways,” Garvin said. “It’s all part of a larger conversation and we’re working on the beginning bones of an updated energy plan for the state.”
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