MANKATO — A mostly supportive crowd heard from state officials about Minnesota joining 13 other states in setting vehicle emission standards for vehicle manufacturers in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to jump start the electric vehicle market.
“It’s absolutely essential. I’m appalled at the (Trump) administration trying to lower mileage standards. Why would we back off on that?” said Paul Gorman, a farm financial consultant who formerly taught at South Central College.
But Roger Parras, of St. Peter, said he’s worried about government mandates. “My biggest concern is the cost to consumers,” said Parras, who serves on the City Council.
“If you just focus on lowering emissions it’s going to drive up the cost of all vehicles.”
Parras said he thinks the marketplace will increase demand as companies like Tesla create more interest in electric vehicles.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency hosted a public meeting at the library in Mankato Tuesday evening, attended by about 60 people, to get input as the agency begins writing rules for the state’s new vehicle emissions standards program.
In September, Gov. Tim Walz announced the state will start a Clean Car Standards program. The new standards will have no effect on current vehicles and people will not need to have their vehicles modified or tested now or in the future.
The standards are set relative to the fleet of vehicles a manufacturer sells in Minnesota.
MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop said there are 42 different electric vehicles manufactured but Minnesota buyers only have access to 19.
The meeting was the last of six held around the state to get input before the agency begins writing rules, which are to be finalized in December of next year. The standards would take effect for 2023 model vehicles.
She said at the outstate meetings about 60% of participants favored the standards. She said auto dealers often voiced concerns.
“The dealers are worried about mandating to them, but it mandates manufacturers, not dealers.”
But she said the public overall has been mostly supportive. “I think people have seen this coming,” Bishop said.
Jim Dontje said he supports the emission standards and said 10 years ago he didn’t think clean transportation would be where it’s at today.
“The expansion of electric vehicles has been much faster than I anticipated,” said Dontje, director of Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation at Gustavus Adolphus College. “The technology has moved much faster than I thought.”
But Dontje, like many of the others at the meeting, said the state needs to catch up on building rapid charging stations across the state.
The Star Tribune reported recently that while there may be more interest in electric vehicles, the number of charging stations is lacking in much of the outstate.
The number of electric vehicles registered in the state was 9,401 last year, more than double from 2017. More than 10,400 have been registered this year.
There are more than 300 charging stations in the state, with most clustered in the Twin Cities.
The newspaper said that a company was awarded a contract by the MPCA this summer to install 22 fast-charging stations along highways and interstates, including in Mankato.
The $1.5 million grant for the project was part of a national court settlement following the Volkswagen emissions scandal.
Minnesota will receive $47 million from the settlement over the next decade. Under the settlement terms, the state can use 15% of the total for charging stations and must spend the rest on incentives to replace old heavy diesel vehicles in Minnesota.
Many newer electric models can travel for more than 200 miles before they need charging, but cold weather can sap battery power.