Auto dealers: California emission rules won’t work in Colorado

Matthew Groves
Matthew Groves

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Regulations imposing stricter emission standards in California won’t work in Colorado, according to a representative from an automobile dealers association.

If anything, the rules will have the effect of driving up the price of new cars while in turn keeping older cars on the road that emit more pollution, said Matthew Groves, vice president of legal, regulatory and compliance for the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.

While the association supports the sales of hybrid and electric cars with low and even zero emissions, consumers should remain free to choose, Groves said. “You can influence consumers, but you can’t force them.”

Groves discussed emission standards at an event hosted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

Acting on an order from then-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the state Air Quality Commission voted in November to adopt California vehicle emission standards. In doing so, Colorado joined 12 other states in opting out of federal regulations imposed under the Clean Air Act in favor of the stricter California standards. Under the rules, new vehicles sold in Colorado must average 36 miles per gallon by 2025.

Groves said the Colorado Automobile Dealers Associated filed a lawsuit asserting the commission skipped steps in its rulemaking process in adopting the California rules.

In January, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order pushing for zero-emission vehicle standards. The order calls for the development of infrastructure needed to support more electric vehicles and electrifying the state vehicle fleet. The order calls on the Colorado Department of  Transportation to develop an electric vehicle policy.

Groves said the automotive industry has significantly reduced emissions over the years. While the miles traveled by vehicles increased 106 percent between 1980 and 2015, emissions increased only 18 percent during that span.”Today’s cars are vastly cleaner than yesterday’s cars.”

Efforts to make only incremental gains in lowering emissions could come with big economic sacrifices, Groves said.

By one estimate, the new rules would add $2,000 to the price of a new vehicle, he said. That increase in turn could create what Groves called a “jalopy effect” in which people drive older cars for longer and in doing so increase emissions.

Groves also said there are differences between California and Colorado that affect automobiles and driving, among them climate, elevation and terrain. Electric vehicles perform better in a place like Los Angeles that’s comparatively flat and usually warm than a more mountainous and cold Colorado, he said. Cold temperatures can reduce the range of an electric car by nearly half.

Because of the driving conditions found in Colorado, more people tend to prefer sports utility vehicles and pickups, he said.

Groves also questioned whether or not Colorado would have a say as California negotiates with the federal government over changes.

Federal and state tax credits offer incentives to purchase hybrid and electric cars, but that hasn’t yet substantially increased the proportion of those vehicles on the road, Groves said. Moreover, federal credits are expiring.

While free charging is now available at many locations for electric cars, he questioned how long that will continue. In addition, the wiring required to fit homes for electric vehicle charging can be expensive, he said.

Plans to impose low and zero emission vehicle standards come even as other efforts occur in urban areas to discourage driving, Groves said, including fewer lanes and parking spots and more stop signs.

Members of the  Colorado Automobile Dealers Association sell electric cars and the association supports their use as well continued incentives to encourage purchases, Groves said. “We’re ready to sell them whenever consumers are ready to buy them.”

However, government should allow that choice and not mandate it, he said.

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