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Virginia Quits “Misguided” California EV Mandate

by | June 5, 2024

Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Wednesday that Virginia is walking away from the California electric vehicle mandate which he termed “misguided” and “fundamentally wrong.” Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have adopted the rules which set strict targets for the adoption of zero-emission vehicles, primarily EVs. The move by Youngkin, a Republican, faces legal challenges, however.

Tesla Model Y in the mountains

Gov. Youngkin wants to have Virginia drop rules that would require a big increase in the state’s EV sales.

Barring intervention by the courts, Virginia will be the first to drop out of a consortium of states that have adopted the strict emissions standards put in place by California. The latest version of that mandate goes into effect next January 1 and is set to begin a rolling phase-out of vehicles using internal combustion engines.

Those guidelines have been adopted by 17 states, as well as the District of Columbia. But, on Wednesday, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that he is pulling the state out of that consortium as of the end of 2024 when the current regulations expire.

“Once again, Virginia is declaring independence – this time from a misguided electric vehicle mandate imposed by unelected leaders nearly 3,000 miles away from the Commonwealth,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “The idea that government should tell people what kind of car they can or can’t purchase is fundamentally wrong. Virginians deserve the freedom to choose which vehicles best fit the needs of their families and businesses.”

The backstory

Tailpipe Emissions

California was granted special rights to regulate tailpipe emissions under the Clean Air Act. Other states can adopt those rules.

California has long had the ability to set unique emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act due to its historic problems with smog. Other states have the ability to follow either the guidelines set by Washington or the traditionally stricter California mandates.

In 2021, the Democrat-controlled Virginia General Assembly voted to join a number of other states, including Washington and New Jersey, in choosing to follow the guidelines set by the California Air Resources Board. CARB has since updated its mandate. The Advanced Clean Cars II rules going into effect at the beginning of next year call for zero-emissions vehicles to account for 22% of a participating state’s sales in 2025, a figure rising to 100% by 2035.

About a quarter of the new vehicles sold in California last year were EVs. In Virginia, the figure was 9% — which was slightly ahead of the national average.

Youngkin, a conservative Republican, was elected months after Virginia lawmakers opted to join the California consortium, a move signed into law by the state’s former Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat.

EV Pushback

Chevrolet Equinox EV - AWD by Michigan Central v2

EV sales growth has slowed – but is still on target to hit 10% this year.

At the time Virginia lawmakers approved the adoption of the California mandate EV sales were accelerating rapidly. They accounted for barely 1% of new U.S. retail vehicle sales in 2019 but jumped to 8% by early 2023. Since then, the growth rate has slowed since then but is still expected to increase about 10% this year, demand for EVs expected to reach at least 1.2 million, and possibly 1.3 million.

But EV mandates – along with incentives meant to encourage their growth – has become highly politicized. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump frequently his opposition during the ongoing campaign. Other prominent members of the GOP, such as Yongkin, have followed his lead.

More EV News

Youngkin’s decision to exit the California rules has not gone down well in all quarters, including the Virginia General Assembly which remains under control of the state’s Democrats.

“The governor seems to think we live in a dictatorship where only he decides what the law is,” state Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) told the Washington Post in a text message, calling the action “destructive of Virginia’s pro-business reputation.”

There are signs Youngkin’s decision to quit the California consortium will face a court challenge. That’s already happening in response to another move by the governor who last year ordered the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board to pull out of a regional greenhouse gas initiative initially approved by the state legislature and prior governor. That move is being challenged by the Southern Environmental Law Center.


  1. “The governor seems to think we live in a dictatorship where only he decides what the law is,”

    Backwards, a Dictatorship is where the State tells you what you may purchase.

    Have all Dems lost their minds?

    • You do realize that Trump has called for boycotts of Harley-Davidson, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, ViacomCBS, UPS, CitiGroup, Merck, Goodyear Tires, an assortment of other media groups, Apple, Macy’s Glennfidich whiskey,

      Oh, and did I add Major League Baseball…and OREOS???

      • Well done, Paul.

    • I would say a dictatorship is where one person rules by fiat (as opposed to Fiat). Hence, the Virginia legislator used the word correctly.


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