Electric Vehicles

Most states in early stages of developing electric vehicle policies, report says

Although auto companies are ramping up plans to make electric vehicles, states are generally in the early stages of developing policies to support EVs, according to a report from the American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy.

The finding in the report released Feb. 3 comes as the Biden administration, some states and car companies like General Motors have set aggressive EV goals that could be hampered by a lack of state action.

There were about 1.5 million EVs on U.S. roads as of August as EV sales made up 2 percent of the car market, the ACEEE said, noting that the transportation sector accounts for 28 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

“There is much that needs to be done to grow and maintain the fledgling market for these vehicles,” the ACEEE said in its first ever scorecard on state transportation electrification. “Ambitious state actions will be needed to ramp up deployment of light- and heavy-duty EVs and build out the necessary charging infrastructure.”

States can take a range of steps to help remove barriers to widespread EV adoption, according to the ACEEE.

They can create “supportive policy environments” to lower the higher upfront costs of EV, establish a comprehensive network of charging facilities, and encourage the creation of complementary utility programs to push EV purchases, the group said.

The ACEEE said states can provide education and outreach to support market transformation alongside private sector efforts.

Also, states can work with communities to make sure EV policies consider environmental justice and equity issues, according to the group.

“Such policies would address historical inequities in transportation access, environmental impacts, and economic mobility and avoid future burdens on low-income communities and communities of color,” the ACEEE said.

Utilities can play an important role in supporting EVs by providing incentives for charging infrastructure, according to the ACEEE.

“The benefits of investing in EV programs flow not just to utility customers but to the utilities themselves: Both large and small utilities can benefit from EV load growth leading to more kWh sales, increasing customer engagement with targeted programs, strategic load management through smart charging, and a cleaner environment,” the group said.

With targeted rates and managed charging, utilities can influence when electric vehicles are plugged in, helping to make more efficient use of variable renewable resources, the ACEEE said.

The group warned that, if poorly managed, a major influx of EVs could strain the electric distribution system and drive an increase in peak demand, which could lead to expensive grid system upgrades and higher greenhouse gas emissions.

California, New York, D.C. receive top marks

California was ranked first with 91 out of 100 points for its EV efforts, followed by New York at 63.5 points and the District of Columbia at 59 points.

The top three states were followed by Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, Vermont, Colorado, Oregon and New Jersey.

The scorecard ranks states based on their transportation electrification policies, which the non-profit advocacy group contends can provide models for other states. The rankings covered six policy areas: planning and goal setting; incentives; transportation system efficiency; grid optimization; equity; and electrification outcomes.

Twenty states weren’t ranked because they lacked enough EV policies.

The ACEEE identified three policies that are likely to have the greatest effect on supporting EV sales: zero-emission vehicle mandates and EV deployment targets, financial incentives for vehicle purchases, and incentives for installing vehicle chargers.

The ACEEE urged the states on its scorecard list that are still in the early stages of developing EV policies to consider a range of options, including offering on-the-hood incentives for buying the vehicles.

EVs cost $6,000 to $10,000 less to operate over their lives than cars and trucks with internal combustion engines, but their initial higher cost can be a barrier for potential buyers, the ACEEE said.

The states should also set targets for vehicle and charger deployment, allow utilities to make charging infrastructure investments, and establish clean electricity targets and greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals for the transportation sector, according to the group.

The group recommended a series of “foundational” steps for states that weren’t ranked, such as comprehensive planning efforts with specific goals, benchmarking progress and data collection.