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These States Are Doing the Most to Electrify Transportation

California leads the country in electrifying its transportation sector, according to a new scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. States can pursue a range of strategies to support greater adoption of electric vehicles.

Electric vehicle charging stations in Los Angeles. California significantly outranked other states in a recent scorecard on policies and investments to promote adoption of electric vehicles and achieve broader electrification in the transportation sector.
In Brief:
  • A new report ranks how effective states have been in promoting electric vehicles and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.

  • California leads the pack, with Colorado, New York, Vermont and Massachusetts in the top five.

  • Seventeen states had very low scores. Progress toward electrification is “incremental” overall, the report says.

  • A new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks states on how effectively they’ve used policies and investments to promote adoption of electric vehicles and achieve broader electrification in the transportation sector. The winner, surprising no one and without a close second, is California.

    The 2023 State Transportation Electrification Scorecard, released Wednesday, is the ACEEE’s second scorecard, following a previous report in 2021. Noting that the transportation sector produces 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the scorecard ranks states’ progress in a number of categories related to electrification and emissions reductions.

    The categories include planning and setting goals for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, providing incentives for buying EVs and installing chargers, optimizing electrical grids so they can support additional capacity for EV charging, and supporting efficiency and emissions reductions throughout the transportation sector. Finally, the report measures electrification outcomes: raw measures of how many EVs and chargers are in use and how emissions are changing. In the previous report, a separate category was included for equity in transportation electrification. But this year, in response to feedback from community groups, the report incorporates equity in every category, measuring how states’ policies address “the needs of low-income, economically distressed, and environmental justice communities,” according to the report.

    “The primary thing that we want to look at is how do we increase uptake of EVs across the board, and how do we best integrate them?” says Peter Huether, a senior research associate at ACEEE and lead author of the report.

    California was by far the top scorer overall, with 88 out of 100 points, and also scored highest in four of the five categories, according to the report. The state’s high score is bolstered by two policies in particular: Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II), which mandates that all vehicles sold in the state be zero emissions by 2035, and Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT), which sets required targets for sales of zero-emissions heavy-duty vehicles. Other states in the top five scorers include New York, Colorado, Massachusetts and Vermont.

    Map of the 2023 State Transportation Electrification Scorecard
    While the authors evaluated policies in all 50 states, they only scored the top 33 states because the remaining states scored so low and had “little differentiation in policy progress,” according to a press release accompanying the report. Overall, the states have shown “incremental progress, not transformational progress” toward transportation electrification, according to the release.

    Even some states that have invested real money in some aspects of the electric vehicle industry are not doing all they can to promote the adoption of EVs. Six states have each spent more than $1 billion on tax incentives for EV manufacturers, but only two rank in the top half of states in the scorecard.

    “It’s really a missed opportunity for the residents of those states that they’re not really able to take advantage to the fullest extent of the things they’re producing,” Huether says. “You obviously see the benefit of the EV and electric-battery economy, but you’re not really recognizing the benefits that having those vehicles on the roads can give to you.”

    What can states do to accelerate the electrification of transportation? Adopt the ACC II and ACT policies that California pioneered, as six other states have since done, the report says. They could also set targets for reducing emissions across the entire transportation sector, as Colorado did last year. Setting targets and requirements for electrifying school bus and public transit fleets can also boost electrification. Perhaps most importantly, Huether says, states should carry out comprehensive planning for the transportation sector that recognizes EVs are becoming more common, acknowledges the challenges and benefits that they bring, and works closely with communities to accommodate them.

    “There is a really strong role for states to be playing in electrifying the transportation sector,” Huether says.
    Jared Brey is a senior staff writer for Governing. He can be found on Twitter at @jaredbrey.
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