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June 03, 2014

Eight State EV Action Plan Raises Hope, Questions

EVsIn recent days, eight states came together to release a 'Zero Emission Vehicle Action Plan;' it fleshes out their governors' commitment last fall to slash greenhouse gas emissions and get 3.3 million plug-in vehicles (full battery electrics, plug-in hybrids, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles) on the road by 2025.

Making up 28 percent of the U.S. vehicle market, California, Oregon, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, and Maryland will "drive economies of scale, lowering prices and creating more options for consumers," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in response to the action plan. He continued, "When it comes to fighting climate disruption, EVs are where the rubber hits the road."

The action plan, promoted by a number of government, environmental, and public health groups in the news and social media, reads like a celebration of EV programs already making a difference on the ground. For example:

  • In Rhode Island all new state vehicle purchases will be electrics or hybrids wherever possible.
  • California Governor Jerry Brown met with 40 Fortune 500 executives to announce corporate commitments to plug-in electric vehicle workplace charging.
  • The West Coast Electric Highway has developed a network of charging stations that will provide charging from Canada to Mexico.
  • The Maryland Public Service Commission has created a ‘time of use’ utility pilot program designed to incentivize off-peak charging.
  • Massachusetts has announced a new EV rebate program, to start this summer, that will slice $1,500-2,500 off the purchase or lease of any plug-in vehicle.

The plan lays out 11 types of actions that it recommends for state government –in conjunction with other partners. These include everything from consumer incentives to government fleets, from workplace charging to EV marketing and availability. I encourage you to check out the plan. It's chock full of great examples and recommendations. It also has some compelling factoids, like a study showing that EV drivers are more satisfied with their vehicles than conventional vehicle owners. Additionally, the document shows, the five-year cost of ownership of a typical EV is actually thousands of dollars less than that of a conventional vehicle.

But I think this action plan begs some important questions. If we can't put our all into each and every one of the dozens of action items and recommendations, what are the most effective types of programs and strategies that will most rapidly escalate EV sales in the years to come? What are the pieces of low and medium-hanging fruit, and how does that vary by location? What are the most important studies that show what strategies are working best?

The Sierra Club will be evaluating questions like these in the coming months so we can determine how to best scale up our electric vehicles advocacy and outreach work around the country - and in turn work with these eight states and others to successfully implement this exciting ZEV action plan. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you: What have you found to be the most successful EV programs in your area? What do you think is most needed? What studies do you think best point to important lessons learned in the plug-in electric vehicles market thus far?

-- Gina Coplon-Newfield is the director of the Sierra Club's Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative

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