What are the clean car standards?
The clean car standards refer to two separate vehicle emission standards that individual states have adopted: the low-emission vehicle standard and the zero-emission vehicle standard.
The clean car standards only apply to new light- and medium-duty vehicles for sale in Minnesota. The clean car standards:
- Do not apply to off-road or heavy-duty vehicles or equipment like farm equipment or semi-trucks
- Do not apply to existing vehicles or used vehicles for sale
- Do not require emissions testing
- Do not require anyone to purchase an electric vehicle (EV)
- Do not affect biofuels or prevent Minnesota from supporting cleaner fuels
The low-emission vehicle (LEV) standard sets limits for tailpipe pollution for auto manufacturers, meaning it requires manufacturers to deliver new light- and medium-duty vehicles to the Minnesota market that produce lower emissions of greenhouse gas and other air pollutants. The auto industry has been successfully meeting this standard since 2012.
LEV-certified vehicles are already what’s for sale on Minnesota lots. Because the federal emissions standard and the LEV standard were the same from 2012 until 2020, all new vehicles sold in Minnesota from 2012-2020 have been LEV-certified vehicles. Adopting LEV would preserve consumer access to the cleaner, more efficient vehicles that Minnesotans enjoy today.
The zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standard requires auto manufacturers to deliver more vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions for sale in Minnesota, increasing each year.
There are more makes and models of EVs available in states that have adopted the ZEV standard than Minnesotans can easily acquire here. As manufacturers announce more new electric SUVs, trucks, and cars on the way, Minnesota should be at the forefront of receiving this new technology and more options for consumers. More new EVs on the market here could lead to more used EVs becoming available for consumers, too.
Minnesota needs to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050. However, we missed our target in 2015 and are not on track to meet future goals either.
Transportation is currently the largest source of climate-changing pollution in Minnesota, and represents our greatest opportunity to reduce GHG emissions. Light-and medium-duty vehicles produce more than half of all transportation emissions in Minnesota. Minnesota also has set a goal for 20 percent of all passenger vehicles in the state to be electric by 2030. Bold goals require bold action.
Meanwhile, in 2020 the federal government weakened the federal GHG emissions standards for passenger vehicles. Instead of building on the progress the auto industry has made over the last few decades, these changes would set us back and make it harder for Minnesota to reach its goals.
Clean Cars Minnesota is also the result of extensive public engagement by MnDOT, MPCA, and others about the future of transportation in Minnesota. Minnesotans have been asking for more meaningful ways to address climate change, and “regulations for car manufacturers to offer more fuel-efficient vehicles in MN” was one of the most supported policies in a recent survey by MnDOT.
Minnesotans deserve more and better options for cleaner, more efficient vehicles. Adopting clean car standards now means Minnesota will continue moving in the right direction.
- Read more about Minnesota going electric: Accelerating Electric Vehicle Adoption: A Vision for Minnesota
- Read more about MnDOT’s research and recommended actions: Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation in Minnesota
Which states have already adopted clean car standards?
Under the federal Clean Air Act, states can choose to either follow federal emissions standards or adopt the more stringent clean car standards.
To date, 14 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the LEV standard, and 12 states have adopted both the LEV and ZEV standards. Colorado is the most recent state to adopt both standards. As of December 2020, New Mexico and Nevada are also pursuing adopting the same standards.
All states have used a similar rulemaking process to adopt the clean car standards.
Adopted both LEV and ZEV standards: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington. Adopted LEV standard only: Delaware, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia.
What’s the process for adopting clean car standards?
On Sept. 25, 2019, Governor Tim Walz asked MPCA to take action so that Minnesotans will avoid the ramifications of any changes to federal emissions standards. To reduce GHG emissions from transportation, protect Minnesotans, and ensure continued access to better, more efficient vehicles, Governor Walz proposed adopting both of the clean car standards.
MPCA is the state agency with authority to adopt clean car standards through a formal rulemaking process.
As the process continues in 2021, you can stay up-to-date by visiting our official rulemaking webpage or signing up to receive emails about Clean Cars Minnesota.
What does “rulemaking” mean?
Laws are written and passed by the Legislature. Rulemaking is a different process that state agencies can use to adopt regulations specific to our programs. In 1967, the Legislature gave MPCA authority to create, change, and enforce rules.
The rulemaking process includes multiple opportunities for public input. MPCA must also submit a detailed document called the Statement of Need and Reasonableness, or SONAR. Proposed changes to state rules are ultimately determined by an administrative law judge.
Does Minnesota have any options or flexibility when adopting clean car standards?
The federal Clean Air Act allows states to either follow federal emissions standards or choose to adopt more stringent standards that offer greater environmental protection. States that choose to adopt the alternative, more stringent standards (LEV and ZEV) must adopt identical standards.
Some flexibility is allowed for initial establishment of the zero-emission vehicle crediting system. For example, the ZEV standard allows for “early action” credits to vehicle manufacturers who accelerate ZEV sales in Minnesota before the initial implementation date of the rule.
When would the clean car standards go into effect?
The federal Clean Air Act requires two full model years between finalization and enforcement of the rule. If approved by an administrative law judge, Minnesota’s clean car standards would apply to new vehicles and are anticipated to take effect beginning with model year 2025 (approximately January 2024). MPCA’s proposed rule also includes an early action credit system that would encourage auto manufacturers to bring more EVs to the state sooner, starting in 2021.
Do we have a say? How can I give my input?
Whenever the state rules are changed, you have the opportunity to get involved
The Clean Cars Minnesota rulemaking began in October 2019 with an initial open comment period, when MPCA published some draft concepts of the rule and asked for feedback. Read more about the comments we received: What we heard.
To share information and gather additional input, in 2019 and 2020 MPCA staff held public meetings across the state and hosted a series of technical meetings with stakeholders to help the agency develop its analysis: Public engagement 2019-2020.
You can learn how you can participate in the process on our rulemaking page.