States to automakers: Time to ‘fully commit’ to ZEV targets

Source: David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, July 30, 2018

States are beginning to lay the groundwork for zero-emission vehicles, and automakers shouldn’t try to minimize the odds of a successful transition or shirk their share of the burden, the environmental commissioners of six states said in a letter last week.

The commissioners were responding to late May letters from the Alliance of Auto Manufacturers that urged nine states to enact a framework of electric vehicle policies on par with that of California (Greenwire, June 14).

The alliance said then that those nine states, which have adopted California-style mandates for the growth of electric and fuel-cell vehicles, hadn’t instituted the necessary raft of financial incentives, on-the-road perks for drivers and fueling infrastructure.

“No other state has stepped up in the same way [as California],” wrote the alliance, one of the country’s two largest automaker associations. “And that means that ZEV policy can’t succeed.”

It also accused states of “wishing things will work out” instead of undertaking an “affirmative agenda” — a suggestion that seems to have vexed the officials from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

While significantly more charging infrastructure will have to be built in order to accommodate ZEV sales goals, the commissioners wrote yesterday, those states have made available “a broad range” of vehicle purchase incentives as well as grants, rebates and tax credits for chargers.

The states are planning to spend tens of millions of dollars from the Volkswagen settlement on chargers and infrastructure for ZEVs, the commissioners said. And utilities are proposing to sink over $750 million more into chargers and other electrification programs.

“Rather than questioning the validity of the ZEV programs with the political leadership in our states, we urge the Auto Alliance and its members to fully commit to the success of these programs,” they said.

They also took issue with the auto alliance’s characterization of its future sales requirements, citing California regulators’ estimate that in 2025, plug-in electric and other potentially zero-emission vehicles will probably need to be no more than 7.5 percent of all light-duty cars — about half of what the alliance has estimated.

Manufacturers have also spent far more on marketing conventional vehicles than the best-selling models of electric vehicles, they said. And low sales numbers in the six states are partly due to a recently expired provision that let manufacturers sell ZEVs in California while earning credits toward other states’ mandates.

The alliance’s members should focus on offering a full range of electrified models in ZEV states, as well as EV marketing, training and incentives for dealers, advocating for utility charger build-outs and other steps, they wrote.

“Part of it was trying to set the record straight a little bit,” said Elaine O’Grady, policy and program director at Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), which helped coordinate the letter.

“Our states have put a lot of policies and infrastructure in place to date,” she said. “It’s not all about the states. It’s going to take all the players involved, working together.”