Defying Trump, 9 states roll out plan to boost EVs

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2018

Nine states yesterday released a bipartisan action plan for boosting deployment of zero-emission vehicles, in a rebuke to President Trump as his administration moves to weaken federal clean car rules.

The 36-page planoffers 80 recommendations to states, automakers, dealerships, utilities, and charging and fueling companies.

Chief among those are: boosting consumer awareness, building out charging infrastructure, supporting dealership efforts to increase sales, offering more consumer incentives such as reduced tolls and expanding government-backed ZEV fleets.

The document builds on a previous plancrafted in 2014, which offered a number of similar policy recommendations (Climatewire, May 30, 2014).

Advocates say ZEVs can have a big climate impact, as transportation recently eclipsed the power sector as the country’s largest source of greenhouse gases. Several of the participating states have set ambitious targets for curbing emissions, said the report.

But electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids still only account for 1 percent of the U.S. car market. “Penetration of ZEV technology into the mainstream automobile market still falls far short of what is needed to combat climate change,” the report says.

Together, the nine states represent about one-third of the country’s car market. They include California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The Multi-State ZEV Task Force was originally launched in 2013, when the governors of eight states signed a memorandum of understanding to coordinate on boosting deployment. New Jersey became the ninth state to join the effort in 2018.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who has looked to further the state’s climate goals since taking the reins from former Gov. Chris Christie (R), said in a statement, “Despite the Trump Administration’s attempts to roll back progress in lowering vehicle emissions, my Administration is committed to prioritizing and supporting clean, reliable transportation.”

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a vocal foe of the Trump administration, said in a statement, “These nine states, one-third of the nation’s car market, will bring millions of clean cars to America’s roads and highways.”

Driving toward progress

On a call with reporters this morning, regulators in the nine states sought to highlight what they saw as positive developments since the last plan was released.

For instance, last year marked the expiration of the so-called travel provision in the participating states’ ZEV regulations, which allowed automakers to get compliance credit in Oregon and Northeastern states for vehicles placed in California.

The last few years have also seen declines in battery costs and pledges from major automakers to expand their electric vehicle offerings, according to the report.

And New York has been making significant strides in building more charging infrastructure and putting more ZEVs on the road, said Jared Snyder, deputy commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

An initiative called Drive Clean helped increase electric vehicle sales in New York state 70 percent last year, Snyder said. And the New York Power Authority recently announced a $250 million investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, he said.

Stanley Young, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, was also on the call. Along with automaker groups, the board is meeting with the White House this week about finding a path forward on the tailpipe rules.

Asked by E&E News how the action plan could inform those meetings, Young was tight-lipped. “This action plan is part of a commitment by California and the states that follow our standards to continue to move in a direction of cleaner cars and zero-emission vehicles,” he said.

A spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which is also in talks with the White House this week, said in a statement to E&E News, “Automakers have invested billions of dollars in developing zero emission vehicles and have a big stake in selling them in large numbers.

“With the goal of moving more people to electric vehicles, states and utilities must commit to investing in the charging infrastructure that is needed to support consumer adoption. Data also show that incentives, like rebates, parking and HOV access, remain important for consumers deciding to make the switch to an electric vehicle.”