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Clean cars will save Minnesotans money, cut down on pollution

Leaf charging
REUTERS/Edgar Su
In a recent Consumer Reports survey 33 percent of prospective buyers in Minnesota say they will consider buying or leasing an electric vehicle within the next two years.

Minnesota has a choice. It can choose a future where new cars and trucks pollute less, and drivers can spend less on gasoline. Or it can choose to be left behind, and watch as 40 percent of Americans move forward with better vehicles. The choice will have a far-reaching impact on Minnesotans’ wallets, public health, and the ability to choose cleaner cars.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter
Shannon Baker-Branstetter
The difference between these choices amounts to nearly $10 billion. That’s how much Minnesotans would save by joining more than a dozen states that are working to implement the Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) standards. And the people who would benefit the most from those gradually improving standards are pickup and SUV owners. They would get 70 percent of the savings because these vehicles have the most room for improvement. Despite that, auto dealerships are fighting against the standards, and Minnesota truck and SUV buyers in particular should be alarmed.

Thankfully, Gov. Tim Walz is kicking off a thorough and inclusive decision-making process that involves feedback from the general public, and from businesses like those represented by the car dealers association. Adopting a LEV program means consumers will have an easier time finding efficient vehicles of all types, including pickups and SUVs. Despite recent claims by Minnesota’s auto dealership association, the standards are a great fit for the state. Already 14 other states have adopted this program, including Colorado most recently. Earlier this year, Canada announced it was adopting this program as well. Minnesotans deserve cleaner vehicles, too.

The ZEV standard

Minnesota is also considering another program, called the Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standard. This program would require car dealers to sell a very small percentage of zero-emission vehicles, like electric vehicles. Only about 5% of vehicles sold by auto dealers would need to be electric-powered by 2025, at the time when all types of electric vehicles, including SUVs and pickups, are expected to hit the market from major automakers.


Minnesotans want cleaner vehicle choices — in a recent Consumer Reports survey 33 percent of prospective buyers in Minnesota say they will consider buying or leasing an electric vehicle within the next two years. And another 30 percent said they’re also interested in getting an electric vehicle in the future. As prices drop and more models become available, more consumers will reap the benefits of electric vehicles, like instant acceleration, fuel savings, and the convenience of home charging. Electric vehicles also tend to get top marks in owner satisfaction from independent testing organizations like Consumer Reports.

Fewer moving parts, fewer routine visits

But there’s one feature of electric vehicles in particular that is the crux of auto dealers’ opposition to the governor’s plan. Dealerships make most of their money off financing and maintenance, but electric vehicles have fewer moving parts and therefore need fewer routine tune-up visits. They also don’t need oil changes. So electric vehicle drivers won’t be going to the dealer as often — a big win for consumers, but dealers may see those consumer savings as a threat.

The claims made recently by the auto dealership lobby to MinnPost are merely self-serving and should not dissuade Minnesotans from moving forward. Without these standards, Minnesota will be stuck in neutral, because the federal government is working to weaken vehicle efficiency standards at the national level. Adopting a clean car program helps protect Minnesotans from the dynamics in D.C.

New vehicles today are safer and more efficient than ever, and adopting the governor’s proposals helps ensure that the best vehicles will be sold in Minnesota.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter is the manager of cars and energy policy for Consumer Reports.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 11/13/2019 - 09:13 am.

    If there seems to be a lot of electric vehicle news in MinnPost lately, it may be because these things are for real, and they will play a growing role in our future. Had this online outlet been around in the early 1900’s, I’m sure we would have seen a lot of pro and con about the new “horseless carriage” gizmo. “Stuff and nonsense! This rich man’s toy shall never replace the noble horse.”

  2. Submitted by Greg Fynboh on 11/13/2019 - 10:13 am.

    An E-85/electric hybrid would be the cat’s meow! Perfect for the rural citizen who needs long range performance to go to a gopher game or visit a buddy in Winnipeg and who wants to support her friends working at and delivering corn to the local ethanol plant. Her friends changing oil at the dealership may suffer some, but can possibly be consoled by her and maybe make plans for the future over a good drink made with ethanol. The hybrid vehicle would even work for city person, too, if they want to come out and visit this awesome individual who lives the rural life. But if they drove an all electric or all E-85 vehicle that would be fine too. Just my opinion.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 11/13/2019 - 01:15 pm.

      No, anything that runs on E85 is an ecological disaster.

      People working at ethanol plants should go get actual jobs instead of their fake ethanol jobs that hurt the other environment.

  3. Submitted by Ole Johnson on 11/14/2019 - 08:25 am.

    If the economic benefits of LEV’s and ZEV’s are so clear, why does it have to be subsidized? Or mandated?

    If these new cars are that awesome, people will see that and buy them.

    Calling for laws and subsidies makes me think that the benefits being touted by the advocates are not real.

    • Submitted by Greg Fynboh on 11/14/2019 - 10:13 am.

      I think that is a great question to ask, Ole. If markets were truly free and fair then I think those “best things” would be able to stand on their own merits. I don’t think we live in a world that is free or fair – including and especially our energy market. Also, old technologies that are established (i.e. oil) receive subsidies. If newer technologies look to have better merits than old technologies does it not make sense to at least give new technology companies the same opportunity to conduct business as old technology companies?

  4. Submitted by John N. Finn on 11/14/2019 - 09:43 am.

    When it wears out, replacing our small car with an electric one would work, maybe even if our second larger one was eliminated. But from my vantage point a block away from a Chrysler dealership with a loud exhaust parts store across the street, I wonder if the pickup truckers would ever tolerate quiet electric propulsion.

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