Youngkin Frees Virginia From California’s Stricter Vehicle Mandates

Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently announced Virginia’s withdrawal from California’s strict mandate requiring all new vehicles sold in the state to be electric or plug-in hybrids by 2035. This mandate, created by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), would have also banned sales of new gas, diesel, and traditional hybrid vehicles starting next year, with 35% of model year 2026 cars needing to meet California’s “zero emission” standards.

This controversial policy stemmed from a 2021 bill endorsed by former Gov. Ralph Northam and his General Assembly allies. The bill directed the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board (APCB) to align state regulations with California’s vehicle emission standards, circumventing the Administrative Process Act and excluding Virginians from participating in the regulatory process or assessing the policy’s economic impact.

In November 2022, California, under Gov. Gavin Newsom, implemented new regulations banning sales of new gas, diesel, flex-fuel, and traditional hybrid vehicles, with severe penalties for non-compliance, potentially affecting Virginia and other states following California’s lead.

Critics, including Youngkin, argue that California’s gas car ban would have imposed significant costs on Virginia drivers and small businesses. The policy would have increased vehicle prices in both new and used car markets, making them less affordable for families. Penalties on automakers, estimated at $20,000 per non-compliant vehicle, would likely be passed on to consumers.

Additionally, the mandate would have heightened Virginia’s and the U.S.’s reliance on China, which dominates the global EV battery and mineral supply chain. This dependence raised national security concerns, as critics feared it would make the U.S. vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and geopolitical tensions.

While recognizing the benefits of electric vehicles (EVs) for those who choose them, Youngkin emphasized that government mandates should not force consumers to purchase specific types of vehicles. He argued that individuals should have the freedom to choose vehicles that best meet their needs and budgets without restrictive government interference.

Gov. Youngkin’s decision to decouple from California’s vehicle mandate policies underscores his commitment to consumer choice and freedom. He believes that Virginia drivers, not distant regulators in California, should determine which vehicles to buy. This move is seen as a significant step toward protecting consumer rights and promoting economic freedom in Virginia.

Other states adhering to California’s EV mandate are encouraged to follow Youngkin’s example, ensuring their residents are free from what critics describe as California’s overreach. This decision by Youngkin sets a precedent for prioritizing consumer preferences and state autonomy over external mandates.