Youngkin’s Move on EVs Is Reckless, Costly, and Probably Illegal

Richmond, VA-–Despite his party’s failed attempt to roll back Virginia’s best-in-class emissions standards in the last legislative session, today Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that Virginia would no longer be permitted to enforce the robust emission standards voted on by the General Assembly in 2021 and instead, would be required to return to the more lax federal emission control standards. States may choose whether to abide by either federal emissions standards or adopt the more climate-forward standards set by California, which, among other things, requires that by 2035, all new cars sold must be electric. Because states that adopt the California standards have front-of-the-line access to new electric vehicles, Youngkin’s move is projected to sharply decrease the supply of new EVs in Virginia.  In addition, legislators and policy analysts have criticized the legality of Youngkin’s attempt to unilaterally move Virginia away from a framework that was passed into law by the General Assembly. 

“Between rolling back our emissions standards and removing us from RGGI, Governor Youngkin is trying to roll back all of the good progress we have made to combat the effects of climate change, and he’s doing it with absolute disregard for what our legislators have voted on and our community has said that it wants,” said LaTwyla Mathias, Executive Director at  Progress Virginia. “Right now, people of color, poor people, and people in rural areas are hit disproportionately hard by climate change, and Governor Youngkin has proven over and over again that he doesn’t mind sacrificing our community’s future if it means he gets to score a few more points with his base and make his friends in the oil and gas industry happy. We need to pressure Governor Youngkin to stop this ill-advised rollback, and we urge Democratic lawmakers to pursue all legal means to make him respect the binding force of the laws they passed in 2021.” 


  • Legislation passed in 2021 directs Virginia’s Air Pollution Control Board to adopt Advanced Clean Cars and subsequent updates to the program. In doing so, Virginia exercised an option under the federal Clean Air Act to follow the more stringent standards adopted by California and several other states to address tailpipe pollution. This regulation became effective in January of 2024.
  • Governor Youngkin based his decision on a brief from the Attorney General’s office, which is a course correction from a 2022 opinion where the Attorney General said Virginia was “legally bound” to the robust standards adopted by the General Assembly. 
  • Virginians currently spend about $25 million per day on imported gas, and owning an EV will save the average driver between $6000-$10,000 over the life of their car. 
  • 70% of the carbon pollution from the transportation sector comes from passenger vehicles.
  • Prior to the 2021 adoption of the California emissions standards, 1/3rd of all electric vehicles were purchased out of state in Clean Cars states like Maryland; Virginia’s access was limited by virtue of the less robust emissions standards it followed at the time. 
  • Widespread transition to EVs by 2050 could save Virginians $29.7 billion in healthcare costs, result in 2,700 fewer premature deaths, cause 70,900 fewer asthma attacks, and give back 350,000 lost workdays each year. Tailpipe emissions disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color.
  • Manufacturers like GM, Ford, Volvo, and VW are all phasing out gas-powered vehicles between 2030 and 2040.

  -GM will be all-electric by 2035
  -Ford: 50% of US vehicle sales to be fully electric by 2030. Ford will phase out 

    gas-powered vehicles in “leading markets” by 2035.
  -Volvo: EV-only by 2030.
              -VW: 55% of US vehicle sales to be fully-electric by 2030.

   -Nissan: 40% of US vehicle sales to be electric by 2030