Over the past five years, plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) have gone from a cool concept to a real option for vehicle buyers, with almost 440,000 sold nationally through April 2016. Consumer rebate programs have been a big part of this success, beginning in Massachusetts in June 2014, in Connecticut in May 2015, and in Rhode Island in January 2016. Recently, New York included a provision in their 2016 budget to create a consumer rebate program as well.
However, advances in a number of policy areas are needed to allow electric vehicles to make significant inroads with mainstream consumers and take full advantage of the new advanced EV models that will go on sale in the next year. In October 2015, Acadia Center issued a joint report with Conservation Law Foundation and Sierra Club that laid out “Nine Vital Steps for Success” for governments, auto companies and dealers, and utilities.
Connecticut enacts “An Act Concerning Electric and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles”
In May 2016, the Connecticut General Assembly passed H.B. No. 5510, “An Act Concerning Electric and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles.” On June 7th, the bill was signed by Governor Malloy and became Public Act 16-135. This law contains a number of great provisions that will help promote electric vehicles:
• Reporting of electric vehicle sales from the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to track progress towards goals;
• Exemption of EV charging stations from burdensome public utility regulations;
• Electric vehicle time of day rates for residential and commercial customers to promote electric vehicle sales and encourage efficient charging;
• Integration of EV sales into utility distribution planning and analysis of EV batteries as energy storage in the Connecticut Integrated Resources Plan; and
• Requirements for public charging stations to allow fair access to all EV drivers.
Notwithstanding one negative provision—a new fee on certain EV charging stations—the Act contains a range of smart provisions that promote electric vehicles and creates a broader framework for widespread electric vehicle adoption.
Electric Vehicle Bill Set for Action in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has its own electric vehicle bill moving through the legislative process, “An Act Promoting Electric Vehicle Adoption,” now numbered S.2266. This bill, which has already been reported favorably by the Joint Committee on Transportation and is now at the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, would promote electric vehicles and other zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) by:
• Allowing EV and ZEV owners to use high-occupancy vehicle (“HOV”) lanes;
• Providing for municipal enforcement of dedicated “ZEV-only” parking spaces;
• Amending the building code to incorporate measures to install EV charging at a lower cost in the future;
• Requiring fair access to public EV charging stations; and
• Adding EV-specific requirements to the state fleet fuel economy standards and studying the opportunities for electrification of the state fleet and vehicles used by the Regional Transit Authorities.
The original bills containing these proposals (numbered H.3085/S.1824) were supported by 16 businesses and organizations, including the Massachusetts Association of Regional Transit Authorities, in joint testimony to the Transportation Committee. Since then, a provision for a study of transportation revenue issues and options for ZEVs were added to the bill.
What Comes Next in Massachusetts?
The Massachusetts Legislature is in the middle of a big debate on our energy future. The House recently passed an “omnibus” bill to promote hydro, onshore and offshore wind, and the associated transmission and diversify the Commonwealth’s energy portfolio. The Senate and outside advocates are debating how to expand this House bill to truly promote a clean energy future. The Senate should either adopt an amendment to incorporate these electric vehicle provisions in their own bill or take up the electric vehicle bill separately as a complement to this work. This legislation could be passed within the next month, and advocates remain hopeful that Massachusetts will embrace this opportunity to make electric vehicles more accessible and practical for consumers.