State Action Plan Helps Power Up Electric Vehicle Market

The release of an action plan by state governments that hope to boost the visibility and use of electric vehicles is yet another sign the nation is moving deliberately toward getting gas-burners off the highways and cleaning up air pollution caused by petroleum-powered vehicles.

To reduce smog, soot and greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, last year eight states forged a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) program agreement to accelerate the deployment of plug-in and fuel-cell electric vehicles in their states with a goal of getting 3.3 million ZEVs on the road by 2025.

The eight states pledging their commitment through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) are California and Oregon in the West and Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont and Maryland in the East. The MOU calls for cooperative actions between the states and alliances with private sector interests.

Already taking action

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts jumped into action early  with an announcement by Gov. Deval Patrick in March that the state was investing in a fleet of electric buses for the Worcester, Mass., transit authority and simultaneously announced Massachusetts buyers of electric or hybrid vehicles would qualify for $2,500 rebates.

In April, Maryland announced a $1 million grant program to help establish a statewide network of fast-charging stations along highways that could add about 100 miles of range during a 30 minute rest stop. Maryland also provides electric vehicle buyers a tax credit of up to $3,000.

In Connecticut in January, the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced its draft EVConnecticut plan to place charging stations throughout the state  – with no driver ever more than 15 miles away from a station. The state currently has about 160 chargers in 100 locations.

New York’s Charge NY initiative seeks to install 3,000 charging stations throughout the state.

In California, the Air Resources Board already offers $2,500 in rebates for buyers of all-electric vehicles and $1,500 for plug-in hybrids. California is also advancing legislation to create the “Charge Ahead” initiative that establishes an on-going funding stream for the ZEV rebates.

More ZEVs on the road

The ZEV target volume represents more than a 16-fold increase from the roughly 200,000 electric vehicles on U.S. roads today. These eight states represent about 25 percent of the new car market – but they also represent 50 percent of the current market for electric cars.

A focused effort by these states can make electric vehicles easier to buy and easier to fuel up. Some of the state action plan elements developed by the eight-state ZEV task force include the following:

  • Ensure electric vehicle drivers can access cheap electricity. Work through public utility commissions to establish electricity rates for vehicle charging at power levels and times of the day that are good for the grid and all utility consumers.
  • Promote consumer purchase incentives. Support tax incentives and other measures available at the time of sale.
  • Electrify state fleets. Establish minimum electric-drive purchase requirements and encourage all-electric miles. Lead by example with publically-accessible charging stations at government facilities.
  • Make new buildings electric-vehicle ready. During new construction or retrofits, consider requirements that buildings and parking lots to install electrical wiring and other equipment so electric vehicle charging equipment can be readily deployed.
  • Coordinate charging station deployment. Ensure interoperability of charging systems, establish charging networks along popular regional corridors like I-95 in the Northeast, and use uniform signage.
  • Partner with businesses to encourage workplace charging. Employees can benefit from just a trickle charge as their cars are idle most of the day.
  • Educate and encourage auto dealers to sell ZEVs. Work with automotive manufacturers and dealers to makes sure consumers get accurate information on the benefits of electric vehicles. According to a recent Consumer Reports survey many dealers are uninformed or biased against selling electric vehicles.

The collective action of the eight states to establish action plans is a clear signal of their intent to get more drivers behind the wheel of electric-drive vehicles. This is an important step for accelerating electric-drive vehicle adoption. Going forward these leading states must follow-through with their plans so we continue on a path to low-carbon, beyond oil transportation.