General Assembly Must Reverse Course on ‘Clean Cars’ Law

This op-ed about Virginia’s “Clean Cars” law is very informative and explains what’s at stake for consumers in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The op-ed by Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford appeared in the Richmond Times on January 1, 2023.


It takes a certain amount of humility to look at a policy and realize that it’s wrong, and to reverse course. That’s what the upcoming session of the General Assembly needs to do in regards to the ill-informed decision to end all sales of new gasoline-powered cars in Virginia starting in 2035.

Virginia families have been slammed not only by sky-high inflation for things like food, commodities and electricity, but also for vehicles. This law, adopted during the two years when Democrats had total control of Virginia’s government, puts unelected bureaucrats from California in charge of our emission standards.

That’s not the worst thing about the new rules. The worst thing is that they just won’t work.

Finding a gas station isn’t a problem. But get outside of Northern Virginia, or off one of our major highways, and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are few and far between. As of June, there were 832 fast chargers that could charge a car in less than an hour.

When was the last time you took an hour to buy gas? Even slow chargers are hard to find. Building them out will be expensive, and someone will have to pay. Usually, that means electric ratepayers pick up the tab. That’s to say nothing of the cost of building the generation and transmission required to charge cars at homes and businesses.

Assuming a home’s electrical system has the capacity to charge at “Level 2,” a plug used for an electric oven, it can consume anywhere between 7 and 10 kilowatts. That’s like running your oven and dryer together. Multiply that by every home in a neighborhood, and the base load to the grid climbs quickly.

But most of all, people don’t seem to want these cars or can’t afford them. In addition to being expensive and requiring a five-figure overhaul at mid-life, they simply don’t have the range that most Virginians want and many require. Driving an EV or zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) makes it impossible to handle a long family trip in a reasonable amount of time. There’s a reason that the majority of EVs in Virginia are in Northern Virginia — they’re great for short-mileage trips.

Virginians who want to buy EVs should be — and are — able to do so if they so choose. But forcing dealers to sell EVs? That’s exactly what will happen unless Virginia reverses course.

First, new sales must be 35% electric vehicles or zero-emission vehicles by 2026. That’s a massive transition. EV and ZEV sales in Virginia right now account for about 2% of new car sales. By 2035, all new car sales must be EVs. Want to buy a new car in Virginia after that? It’s electric or nothing. Even major manufacturers are beginning to sound the alarm behind the scenes.

Let people buy the cars they want to buy, and when EVs are reliable and affordable enough, people will change their minds.

Here’s hoping our Democratic friends have the humility to admit they were wrong.