8 states roll out bold plan for hitting zero-emission targets

Source: Sean Reilly, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 30, 2014

Eight states will offer buyer incentives, promote workplace charging and foster effective marketing, among other steps to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on their roads by 2025, under an implementation plan released today.

By that point, the plan calls for 15 percent of all new vehicles sales in the participating states to be ZEVs. To lead by example, those states will require at least 25 percent of their own light-duty car and truck fleets to fall in the zero-emission category.Other planned measures to boost the number of ZEVs include offering them high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access regardless of the number of passengers, reducing tolls for such vehicles, and working with cities and private companies to provide cut-rate parking.The participating states set the 3.3 million ZEV target in a memorandum of understanding signed last October. The participants are California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

“It’s ambitious, I’ll be honest with you, but we want to set ambitious goals,” Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D) said in an interview. With the eight states accounting for a quarter of the nation’s new vehicles sales, he added, “I think that’s a significant statement.”

The plan, which builds on steps that Rhode Island and other states are already taking, “will help develop the infrastructure and coordinated policies” needed to meet the 3.3 million target, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a news release.

Among the vehicles considered zero-emission are plug-in electrics powered solely by batteries and hydrogen fuel-cell electrics, along with plug-in hybrid electrics, which run partly on gasoline. From the end of 2010 through last December, cumulative sales of plug-in electric cars and trucks totaled almost 180,000, according to industry data included in the plan. They currently make up a tiny fraction of overall U.S. vehicle sales, which totaled about 15.5 million last year, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association.

The 3.3 million target “is significantly challenging,” said Greg Schroeder, a senior research engineer at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

While buyer incentives and HOV-lane inclusion could help spur sales of plug-in electric vehicles, prices have not come down as much as hoped, Schroeder said. In addition, he said, “there’s still a lot of issues around range, and those issues have to be addressed in my personal opinion before they become something that’s mainstream.”

The plan cites a recent National Academy of Sciences report, which concluded that potential buyers’ lack of familiarity with plug-in electric vehicles and their operations and maintenance requirements “creates a substantial barrier” to widespread use. But it goes on to state that the new generation of plug-in electrics is receiving high marks from consumers and that the approximately 96,000 sold last year were almost twice the 2012 figure of 53,000.

Once a $7,500 federal tax rebate is factored in, many plug-in electric cars cost less than the average price of a new car, which was about $32,800 as of last November, the plan says. But it adds that “more may be needed to induce a broader cross section of consumers to move to these new technologies.”