Maryland took a big step Monday toward eventually requiring all new vehicles sold in the state to be electric, with the state Air Quality Control Advisory Council’s unanimous approval of a regulation implementing California’s vehicle emissions standards.
Under existing state law, Maryland is required to match California’s vehicle emissions programs, but Republican Gov. Larry Hogan delayed the rollout, meaning Maryland’s rule will take effect at least one model year later than the Golden State’s.
The proposal requires an increasing percentage of new cars sold in Maryland to be zero-emission vehicles, starting with 43% in model year 2027. By model year 2035, all new passenger vehicles sold in the state would need to be zero-emission. Plug-in hybrid cars with at least 50 miles of all-electric range are allowed to account for 20% of the requirements.
During a news conference Monday at the Maryland Department of the Environment headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore touted his administration’s ability to bring the regulation forward less than two months after his inauguration.
“The last administration pumped the brakes on this regulation, but today I am proud to say that we’re getting rolling again,” said Moore, a Democrat.
After his remarks, Moore hopped behind the wheel of an orange Ford Mustang Mach-E and took a spin around the parking lot — with a state trooper keeping a watchful eye in the passenger seat.
“Doing good shouldn’t be that fun,” he told reporters from behind the wheel.
The rule is expected to be finalized around September of this year, said Justin Mabrey of the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Mobile Sources Control Program. Before then, the public will be given an opportunity to comment and the rule will receive an advisory review from a legislative committee.
In a news release Monday, Republicans in the Maryland House of Delegates blasted Moore’s decision to move forward with the program, and promoted a Republican-sponsored bill to evaluate the policy’s impact on the state’s economy and electrical grid before implementation.
“This is a policy that was created in California. It is based on California’s economy, California’s transportation needs, and California’s electrical grid,” said House Minority Leader Jason Buckel in a statement.
Environmental groups, including the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and the Maryland Sierra Club, applauded the Moore administration’s decision to move forward with the regulation Monday.
“I’ve been doing this work for a long time, and I dream of a day like today,” said Kim Coble, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, who served on Moore’s transition team and co-chairs the Maryland Commission on Climate Change.
During model year 2026 — the gap year separating California and Maryland’s programs — car manufacturers likely will be able to earn early compliance credits if more than 7% of the vehicles they sell in Maryland are electric cars. That percentage is the requirement for model year 2025 under existing law, Mabrey said.
Once the program takes effect, manufacturers also would be able to trade zero-emission vehicle credits to help meet the requirement in the program’s early years, Mabrey said.
So far, 17 states have adopted all or part of California’s standards, known as Advanced Clean Cars II, Mabrey said.
Maryland is not the only state running a year behind California. New Jersey, for example, did not put forward the regulation in time to give manufacturers two years of notice before the rule takes effect, and is likely to start with model year 2027, too.
Maryland legislators currently are debating a similar requirement for new, heavy-duty vehicles sold in the state, including trucks and buses. That standard also comes from California, where it is known as the Advanced Clean Trucks rule. In December 2021, California also finalized its “Heavy Duty Omnibus” regulation, which aims to reduce NOx emissions from heavy-duty trucks.
During Monday’s air quality council meeting, Chris Hoagland, MDE’s director of air and radiation, said the administration technically doesn’t need approval from legislators to move forward with both rules for heavy-duty vehicles, though clarity from Annapolis would be welcomed.
“Whether the legislation passes or not, we hope to bring Advanced Clean Trucks and omnibus to you all for consideration,” Hoagland said.
Despite a unanimous vote in favor of the regulation, some members of the air quality council — which includes industry groups, a physician, academics and advocacy groups — expressed concerns about insufficient charging infrastructure in the state to accommodate an influx of electric cars.
“Right now, it’s like finding the Easter egg to find charging at most local shopping centers,” said Ross Salawitch, a University of Maryland professor serving on the air quality council.
In a letter to the Maryland air quality council, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation expressed concern that the policy includes “staggering required sales increases for a new technology that relies heavily on customer acceptance and market readiness.”
As of 2022, about 7.86% of the vehicles sold in Maryland were electric, according to the Alliance. To improve on that number, the Alliance recommended an increase in public charging stations, including at transportation hubs such as airports. It also recommended the adoption of building codes addressing the need for electric vehicle charging stations.
The state has about 1,300 public charging stations, said Timothy Shepherd, chief of MDE’s engineering and technology assessment division — an 18-to-1 ratio of vehicles to chargers. The administration has a goal of reaching 15-to-1, he said. But many electric vehicle drivers do the bulk of their charging either at their homes or their workplaces, Shepherd said.
“There’s been a lot of focus to kind of cover what people want first, as we start to build out the program,” Shepherd said. “Obviously [highway] corridors will play an important role and shopping centers. But right now, the interest from most EV drivers is workplace and residential.”
After passing the Advanced Clean Cars II regulation Monday, the air quality council agreed to draft a letter encouraging other relevant state boards to advance electric car infrastructure projects, including by exploring changes to the state building code.
During Monday’s news conference at MDE, officials said they recognize the need for Maryland to improve its charging infrastructure as more electric vehicles hit the road.
“It won’t be enough to just move forward with this regulation and then to simply call that alone a victory,” Moore said. “That is why my administration is focused on ensuring that Maryland leads on tax credits and rebates for folks who buy electric. It’s why we’re focusing on Maryland leading on building out a network of electric car charging stations.”
Moore referenced his administration’s bill, the Clean Transportation and Energy Act, which would provide businesses and local governments with rebates to cover the difference in cost between medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles and gas-powered ones, and expands a rebate program for charging equipment. The bill remains in committee.
Brendan Jones, president of Blink Charging, spoke during the news conference about his company’s production of electric vehicle chargers at SemaConnect in Bowie. The business received a contract to produce chargers for the U.S. Postal Service, Jones said, and is planning to scale up production by adding a new site close to its Bowie location.
“We’ve already made the financial commitment on that. It’s millions and millions of dollars,” he said. “We’ll have that facility up and running within the next six months here in Maryland.”