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When George Saunderson of Loudon was thinking about a new car recently, he reflected on his son’s enthusiasm for his electric Hyundai. Intrigued by the thought of getting an EV, he went to a nearby dealer.

“I said, ‘Can you show me one?’ And they said, ‘Nope, they aren’t shipping them to us because we’re in New Hampshire,’ ” said Saunderson. “That’s not good. All of a sudden a bunch of these electric vehicles are going to be available … If New Hampshire doesn’t fix this problem, we’re going to be stuck.”

What problem? One I wrote about last June that is still haunting us: The way New Hampshire legislators’ kneejerk avoidance of mandates has shut us out of a clean-air program used by carmakers to prioritize shipments.

The program is called ZEV/LEV for zero-emission and low-emission vehicles. It was created by California, which makes it immediately suspect to many State House veterans, and has been adopted in various forms by 15 states, including everybody else in New England. The program penalizes automakers who don’t sell enough ZEV/LEV vehicles in participating states so auto companies give dealers in those states most of their their scarce electric vehicles. New Hampshire dealers are left wishing and hoping. 

At a time when electric vehicles are already hard to come by, this is a silly self-inflicted wound. A bill to undo the damage and let New Hampshire join the program was killed in the House this session because – well, I don’t know why, to be honest. Makes no sense to me.   

Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for an electric vehicle you’ll probably find yourself heading over the border. This wasn’t too big a deal a few years ago but the EV tipping point is arriving even in America and soon our foot-dragging is going to be a real blow to business.

Electric vehicles are becoming the norm because, despite the drawbacks your Grumpy Uncle brings up endlessly – range, recharge time, weight, incompatibility with AM radio (really!), and the real bugaboo, initial cost – they’re just better vehicles. They’re more fun to drive, cheaper to operate, quieter, don’t stink up the neighborhood and more convenient because most of us can “fill up the tank” at home.

And from the geek point of view, they’re way more exciting. As a technology, internal combustion engines are so mature they’re a snooze-fest, but EVs mean that cars are being re-invented before our very eyes, morphing into energy storage systems and who knows what else while still being vehicles. They still look pretty much the same, just as the first automobiles looked like horse-drawn carriages without horses, but that won’t last. 

It’s a revolution and New Hampshire is at risk of being shut out of it, unless we wake up. 

Speaking of waking up on the EV front, we’re still a public car-charging desert. So far, the governor and Executive Council have approved just four places that can use money from the VWDieselgate fund to install chargers: the Errol General Store, Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, and gas stations in Peterborough and Lancaster.

That would have been big news in 2013 but this is 2023.

As I said last year, the breakneck speed of the clean-energy revolution has created an exception to the rule that it’s best to let the marketplace work things out.

Solar and wind power, energy storage, modern heat and lighting technology, modern transportation alternatives, distributed energy systems – they’re a massive economic opportunity but we can’t expect industries built around old models to embrace them. Our elected representatives rather than profit-maximizing executives should be priming the pump and guiding our economy to succeed.

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