Infrastructure & Environment

8 States Agree to Promote Electric Vehicles

by | June 2, 2014

By Colin Wood

Governors from eight states signed an agreement on May 29 outlining a strategy for putting more electric vehicles on the roads. The 11-point plan provides a menu of activities each state can choose from to meet the broader goal of putting 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on American roadways by 2025.

California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont signed the agreement. Together, the eight states involved in the EV action plan represent about a quarter of the new vehicle market in the U.S.

Officials from Oregon, Vermont and Maryland shared with Government Technology how the new plan will guide electric vehicle programs in their states.

“It’s more of a concrete way of telling automakers that we’re wanting to work together to make this happen,” explained Ashley Horvat, chief electric vehicle officer at the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Oregon participates in several initiatives to promote the sale of electric vehicles (EV), including the West Coast Electric Highway Program, an EV corridor running through California, Oregon and Washington. The program, now nearing completion, has installed 40 of a planned 43 EV fast-charging stations along the coast, and later this year, Horvat plans to travel the country to share lessons learned on that project so other communities can build similar EV corridors.

Vermont is planning two such corridors, said Deborah Markowitz, secretary of the state's Agency of Natural Resources. Vermont’s Green Corridor partnership is installing charging stations and creating HOV lane access incentives between Burlington, Vt., and the Canadian province of Quebec, which is partnered with the state. The other corridor being planned, Markowitz said, will run from Washington, D.C., to Montreal, Canada.

Regional partnerships are of particular importance on the east coast, where the states are smaller, Markowitz explained. The work they have to do involves ensuring the program is consistent across state lines – signs should look the same, HOV lane incentives should be consistent, and charging stations should be available and easy to find.

Vermont also has a partnership with Efficiency Vermont, a private company which hosts a Web application that allows drivers to see the location of charging stations. The site soon will allow drivers to see if the station is occupied or not, Markowitz said.

“Vermont is a small rural state and we’re not going to be able to meet our greenhouse gas goals unless we begin to transition Vermonters into this new technology,” Markowitz said. “Almost half of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. We know zero emission vehicles are a great choice for Vermont families whether they live in the country or in the city, but until our dealerships have them in the lots for folks to try and experience and unless they see them on the road, it’s going to be a slower transition.”

The market needs some help from government to get going because auto makers are conservative about investing in EV technology, she said. “It’s a new market,” she explained. “The first few years of the Prius, they were losing money. [Now] they’re a money-maker but [auto makers] want a money-maker from the beginning, and so whenever you’re transitioning to new technology, it requires a partnership to make it really happen.”

In Maryland, the EV action plan brings greater collaboration to one of the state’s most important environmental issues, said Marcia Ways, program manager for the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Mobile Sources Control Program. The action plan will bring together automakers, dealers and the utility industry and boost awareness of state EV programs, she said. “[It shows] what we’re working on and where we’re going to need their help."

Maryland is trying to reduce vehicle emissions through its Maryland Clean Cars program, based on California’s strict emissions model. One of the program’s requirements is that manufacturers supply the state with zero emission vehicles starting in 2018. “We feel that’s very important for our public health, environment, as well as air quality goals,” Ways said. “We feel we have to work cooperatively to get infrastructure and incentives available for these vehicles so the program can be successful.”

Maryland’s next step is to implement a fast-charging station corridor like those planned by Vermont and nearly completed on the west coast. A grant program to launch that project will begin this summer, Ways said, and it’s likely that Maryland seek the help from officials in Oregon, since they have the most experience with the technology.

Government Technology  |  Government Technology

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