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.
When do the clean car standards go into effect?
The federal Clean Air Act requires two full model years between finalization and enforcement of the rule. Minnesota’s clean car standards apply to new vehicles 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.