Will California’s Electric Vehicle Policy be Coming to Minnesota?


Jack Radomski, Editor

California has made a name for itself in being a leader in putting progressive ideas into action, and a 2020 executive order signed by Governor Newsom does just that. The state of California announced a plan to require zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035. Normally, many Minnesota residents do not need to pay any mind to the policy changes in The Golden State, but this shift in preference to electric vehicles is not a normal situation. California is a leader in energy policy in that many states across the country choose to follow California on energy issues instead of federal guidelines. Section 177 of the Clean Air Act allows states to waive EPA guidelines and simply adopt California’s policies. 

Minnesota is one of those states that normally follows California’s energy policy, so Minnesotans should expect to hear debate on this hot button issue. President Biden and other Democratic leaders across the country see this as a way to curb climate change, whereas prominent Republicans attack this focus on proposing a mandate on expensive electric vehicles during inflation. Governor Newsom of California said requiring all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles by 2035 is “the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change.” Those in favor of this policy cite a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a reduction in nitrogen emissions from cars across the state. Many climate change activists view this switch to electric vehicles from gas or diesel powered vehicles as an excellent first step in reducing the human impact on the climate. 

Those who do not support California’s energy policy cite the high prices of electric vehicles and the importance that gas and diesel powered vehicles have on the American economy. The average price of an electric vehicle is currently $66,000, and even after government subsidies, it could still be a major expense for many American families. Many politicians and activists who are against this mandate use the agriculture industry to back up their claims. They argue that the agriculture industry will surely be negatively impacted by this mandate, as it relies on gas and diesel powered machines as well as on biofuels. The full impact of this mandate is yet to be seen, but could become evident as soon as more states adopt California’s energy policy.  

The University of Minnesota has been increasingly accepting and accommodating of electric vehicles in recent years. Parking & Transportation Services at the University of Minnesota offers multiple charging options for drivers of electric vehicles on campus. Fast-charging, half-day, and all-day charging give drivers an array of options. Students may have noticed that a parking spot at the Graduate Hotel on East Bank has a specific spot reserved for electric vehicles. There are around a dozen options across all three campuses for members of the campus community looking to charge their vehicle. 

Another initiative started this year at the University of Minnesota signals their acceptance and push for electric vehicles on campus. The University of Minnesota’s Facilities Management and Fleet Services is partnering with Xcel Energy on a campus vehicle project aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The University is already in possession of around 40 hybrid vehicles, and this project’s purpose is to better understand the efficiencies of each type of vehicle and the costs and logistics associated with switching to electric or hybrid vehicles. University officials expect to make the transition to electric vehicles in the future, but the timetable remains indefinite. I asked student Thomas Olenchek how he felt about the University’s plan to push for electric vehicles on campus, and he stated “I think it’s a great idea, but I wonder where the energy will come from.” As changes come to the campus, students’ opinion on the matter will become more evident. 

I think it’s a great idea, but I wonder where the energy will come from

— Thomas Olenchek

It is unclear if Minnesota officials will continue to follow California policies for electric vehicles. Government officials will have to decide, invariably making an enemy with the other side of this tension-filled issue. Climate change activists, the agriculture industry, the energy sector, and other special interest groups across Minnesota and the United States will all have an opinion on this issue as they attempt to sway lawmakers in their favor. California is a progressive state but usually garners quite a following on their energy policies. Whichever side Minnesotans fall on this issue, be on the lookout for any changes to the energy and automotive industry and pay attention to which state’s adopt California’s car mandate.