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Luke Tonachel’s Blog

Eight States Team Up to Win the Electric Vehicle Race

Luke Tonachel

Posted October 24, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Living Sustainably, Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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In yet another sign that the electric car market is charging forward, eight governors of California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont announced a new agreement to cooperate on implementing key policies to make electric cars more available to the mass market.  In a memorandum of understanding (MOU), the Northeast and West Coast governors set a goal to put 3.3 million plug-in or fuel-cell electric cars on their roads by 2025. The target volume would represent more than a 20-fold increase from the roughly 140,000 electric vehicles on U.S. roads today.

While these eight states represent about 25 percent of the new car market, they are 50 percent of the current market for electric cars. Accelerating these key markets can create a market tipping point for electrics, allowing them to rapidly spread beyond the borders of these eight states.

The MOU signatories are already plug-in electric vehicle leaders. All of the eight states participate in the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program, which has been a critical catalyst for getting electric-drive vehicles into showrooms and on the streets.

Under the MOU, the eight states will leverage their individual efforts into a bolder, more coordinated approach. Under the plan, the governors will:

  • Form a ZEV Program Implementation Task Force to coordinate multi-state ZEV activities. Within six months, the Task Force will create an action plan to implement measures that will help put at least 3.3 million vehicles on the road by 2025.
  • Set ZEV purchase targets for state agency fleets and look for opportunities to leverage the collective, multi-state demand to roll-up attractive, large purchase orders for vehicles and fueling station equipment. State fleet managers will also explore partnerships with corporate fleets and financial institutions to promote growth in the ZEV market.
  • Organize multi-agency efforts for establishing building codes and standards for public and private infrastructure and for establishing smart, low-cost electricity rates that maximize the cost benefit of electric vehicle ownership and promote the efficient operation of the utility grid.

The states also plan to “strengthen the connection between ZEV and renewable energy.” Unlike gasoline vehicles, electric vehicles get cleaner over time as the grid gets cleaner. Smart charging of electric vehicles (by varying charging time and speed) can help maximize grid efficiency in response to varying production from off-peak renewables like wind power. Of course, charging at home or at work can be done by solar power, which can be installed with sufficient capacity to meet both building and vehicle demands.

For the Northeast states, the MOU strengthens other initiatives. For example, Governor Cuomo of New York announced the “Charge NY” program in his 2013 State of the State address which is leading to the deployment of hundreds of charging stations. Since 2011, Maryland has supported electric vehicle deployment with policies—such as tax credits for purchasing electric vehicles and charging stations—coordinated through the State’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council.

Importantly, the MOU brings a renewed focus and energy to the deployment of electric car technology through joint state action. Given the fractured politics in the U.S. Congress, the MOU is a refreshing model of government leadership.

As my colleague Simon Mui points out, the auto industry is currently exceeding ZEV program requirements and the MOU helps keep the accelerator pressed on electric vehicle sales.

The eight-state electric-drive vehicle agreement is a bold step forward toward cleaner transportation and a stronger economy. When carried through, the commitments will spur innovation, cut pollution and oil dependence and save money at the pump. And that’s good for us all.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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