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States Show Limited Progress With Electric Vehicle Policies

A new scorecard ranks state progress toward making EVs the norm. With transportation accounting for 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more needs to be done to meet Paris Accord emission targets.

Electric vehicles plugged into charging stations. (Shutterstock)
Electric cars account for less than one percent of the 282 million vehicles currently operating in the U.S., but a recent study estimates that 90 percent of light-duty vehicles in America might need to be electric by 2050 to meet emission targets from the Paris climate accord. The Transportation Electrification Scorecard just released by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) is the first attempt to rank state policies to promote electric transportation.
ACEEE evaluated state policies in six areas: EV and EV charging infrastructure planning and goal setting; incentives for EV deployment; transportation system efficiency; electricity grid optimization; EV equity and transportation electrification outcomes. States were scored on a 100-point scale and ranked in six tiers.


State rankings in the ACEEE’s State Transportation Electrification Scorecard. Twenty states were not ranked due to scores of 15, or less, out of a possible 100. (Map: ACEEE)

California ranked first, earning 91 points. New York came in second, with 63.5 points, but only five states and the District of Columbia scored more than half of the points available. Twenty states were not ranked because they had scored 15 or fewer points.

The scores and rankings reveal significant potential for improving state programs as climate and clean transportation gain renewed focus. They provide a benchmark for all states, according to lead author Bryan Howard, ACEEE’s state policy director, at a webinar launching the report.

“The scorecard is intended to help decision-makers and other stakeholders to identify and scale up promising policies related to EVs and EV charging infrastructure,” he says.

EV Policy Area Leaders

A handful of states have emerged as leaders in policy making that supports the development of EV infrastructure and increase the share of zero emission vehicles on the road. Chart: ACEEE

State Goals for Electrification

California, New York and Colorado are all recognized as leaders in goal setting. In September 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order requiring that by 2035, 100 percent of new passenger cars and trucks sold in-state will be zero emission. The order also directs the state’s Air Resources Board to develop regulations aimed at 100 percent zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by 2045.

At the report launch, Commissioner Patty Monahan of the California Energy Commission noted that the state’s theory of change revolves around three “Cs” – cost, convenience and consumer awareness. State policies can help build up the market through incentives and support for vehicle purchases and charging infrastructure.

“What we're trying to do is signal to the private sector that they’re going to make money by electrifying transportation, and we're trying to jumpstart that with investments of public dollars,” she says.

New York has set a target of 850,000 zero-emission vehicles by 2025, and is aiming for economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050. A benefit-cost analysis of EV deployment between 2017 and 2030 in the state determined that its net present value would range from $2.8 billion to $5.1 billion in aggregate.

Colorado’s Climate Roadmap, released in January 2012, sets emission reduction targets of 26 percent by 2025, 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050, as compared to 2005 levels. Accelerating the shift to electric cars, trucks and buses is highlighted as a key strategy in reaching these goals.

Mayor Rey Leon of Huron, Calif., in a public engagement campaign from Veloz, a California non-profit with utility, car maker and government partners.

States Have Weak EV Equity Policies

Zeryai Hagos, deputy director of the Office of Markets and Innovation at the New York State Department of Public Service, spoke about the state’s emphasis on ensuring equity in EV programs. New York requires 40 percent of its climate spending to be dedicated toward disadvantaged communities, he says.

ACEEE’s Howard notes that this is a particular weakness in current efforts. Only 23 states earned any points in this category, where scores reflect state and utility investments in EV programs for low-income, economically distressed or environmental justice communities, including electric school bus deployment.

Residents of these communities are disproportionally affected by vehicle emissions, but are not likely to be able to take advantage of incentives or tax credits for vehicle purchases if programs are not designed specifically for them. Every state can improve its equity policies, ACEEE concludes; only one, California, earned more than five of a possible 10 points.

Renewed Focus on Policy Approaches

The scorecard lays out a path forward for states that did not score enough points to be ranked. These include such things as benchmarking progress, coordinated strategies for vehicle and charging infrastructure deployment, collecting data on key metrics of progress, dedicated funding for at-risk communities, encouraging utility and third-party investment and leveraging federal or other funding sources.

“The policy landscape and emerging best practices will keep evolving as states continue to adopt and experiment with policy approaches to advance the use of EVs and EV charging infrastructure,” say the authors. As they do, the strategies outlined in the scorecard offer a clearly-defined platform on which to build.
Carl Smith is a senior staff writer for Governing and covers a broad range of issues affecting states and localities. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @governingwriter.
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