Massachusetts expands electric vehicle rebates to nonprofit, business fleets

Massachusetts has expanded its electric vehicle incentives to include nonprofit and business fleet vehicles, a move intended to maximize the environmental impact of the program at a time when a slumping economy has slowed vehicle sales across the state — and progress toward the state’s carbon emissions goals.

“It’s a big step forward,” said Jordan Stutt, carbon programs director at the Acadia Center, a nonprofit focused on the clean energy economy. “There’s no pathway in which we hit our climate targets without rapid electrification of vehicle fleets.”

“We really need to be working to address equity directly in every facet of our clean transportation plan,” Stutt said.

Read the full article from Energy News Network here.

E-Bikes: Another Path to Clean Mobility

Since 2015, the Massachusetts Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Commission has been working to expand access to non-polluting vehicles and chart a course towards a cleaner transportation future. At last Thursday’s ZEV Commission meeting, Acadia Center, Conservation Law Foundation and Sierra Club delivered recommendations to accelerate that transition to a clean transportation future (on behalf of 17 Massachusetts organizations) which included recommendations to increase access to another electric mobility option: e-bikes.

E-bikes (electric bicycles) are bicycles equipped with a battery, giving riders an electric assist as they pedal. The boost from an e-bike’s battery helps riders cover longer distances and climb hills more easily than they could on a standard bicycle. That makes cycling to work, school, transit, and other destinations a possibility for more people, including those who would otherwise be unable to make those trips due to physical limitations.

Research shows that increased use of e-bikes can significantly reduce vehicle miles traveled. In a recent survey of e-bike users conducted by the University of Tennessee and Portland State University, respondents most frequently cited replacing car trips as a reason for their purchase of an e-bike. One survey response said, “Before the e-bike I would normally only commute to work 2-3 days a week (because of the weight of my laptop, clothes, lunch, etc.). The extra weight, combined with the amount of elevation gain, would leave my legs too tired to commute more than that. However, I can now easily commute 5 days a week.”

That holds true for a new convert to e-bikes: Acadia Center’s Connecticut Director, Amy McLean-Salls (pictured below). She’s already ditching the car for trips to the grocery store, and once the Hartford office re-opens she can ride the e-bike 12 miles instead of driving to work. Amy saves on gas money and gets more exercise, and everyone else benefits from the avoided tailpipe pollution and one fewer car sitting in Hartford traffic.

However, our policies need to encourage widespread adoption of this mobility option. While e-bikes can take their riders farther than traditional bicycles, they also tend to cost more. That cost gap can be addressed, in part, through rebates, similar to the state and federal incentives currently in place to help address the cost gap between electric vehicles and traditional cars.

Cyclists, clean transportation advocates and other stakeholders are calling on states to deliver support for e-bikes. Last Monday, Acadia Center joined our partners at the Transport Hartford Academy at the Center for Latino Justice in calling for the expansion of Connecticut’s CHEAPR EV rebate program to include rebates for e-bikes. And at the Massachusetts ZEV Commission meeting last Thursday, Acadia Center called for a $300 rebate for e-bike purchases, and a $500 rebate for low-income consumers and those living in environmental justice communities. Those communities suffer from inequitable exposure to transportation pollution and have less access to transit; delivering improved transit service and more mobility options should be a top priority.

Though there are many significant benefits to e-bike usage, Massachusetts currently has outdated laws that were created before the technology that is now widely used in these devices. These laws make it difficult for consumers to maximize the benefits of e-bikes by limiting access to bike paths, requiring licenses, and preventing anyone under 16 from riding legally.

Our friends at MassBike are leading an effort to bring Massachusetts e-bike regulations up to date with other states’ more modern laws. S.2071 and H.3014, which are currently sitting in the Joint Committee on Transportation, would classify e-bikes by their maximum assisted speed and whether or not the motor provides assistance if the rider is not pedaling. Classifying e-bikes as bicycles instead of mopeds is much more consistent with the technology that they use and will allow Massachusetts residents to take advantage of this innovative transportation option at a time when creative mobility solutions are desperately needed to prevent an uptick in car usage.

As offices re-open and the Commonwealth’s residents start returning to work, Massachusetts should do whatever possible to help them get to work safely, sustainably, and in ways that help avoid a return to Boston’s worst-in-the-nation traffic congestion. E-bike rebates should be part of that plan, as should updating the Commonwealth’s outdated regulations that treat low-speed e-bikes the same as high-powered mopeds. With a first-in-the-nation, state-sponsored e-bike rebate program and the passage of H.3014/S.2071, more Massachusetts residents will have access to electrified mobility options.

What you can do:

  • Submit comments to the MA ZEV Commission, letting the Baker Administration know that you support e-bike rebates and other policies to advance clean transportation.
  • Contact legislators on the Joint Committee on Transportation (by July 1st!), letting them know that you support e-bike legislation (H.3014/S.2071) to align our regulations with other states.

by Rachel ZaffEnvironmental Policy Intern, and Jordan StuttCarbon Programs Director

Massachusetts’ popular electric vehicle rebates are about to shrink

To reach these ambitious numbers, it is essential to implement measures to help consumers of all income levels go electric, activists said.

“We absolutely need to take new steps to improve access to electric vehicles to low-income residents,” said Mark LeBel, staff attorney at the Acadia Center, a Boston-based nonprofit that promotes the development of clean energy economies.

Offering larger rebates to lower-income buyers and expanding the program to include used vehicles could help achieve this goal, LeBel said. Financing options that offered low or no-interest loans could also be useful, he said.

Read the full article from Energy News Network here.

Who Should Get Energy Rebates? Lawmakers Debate

Environmentalists are clashing with fossil fuel supporters over who should get money saved from cutting gas emissions throughout the state. Two bills will be voted on Tuesday that deal with how the money earned from the program should be spent. New Hampshire is one of nine states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first U.S. program that works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The program has been credited with cutting emissions by 30 percent and sending nearly $3 billion in savings back to the states over the last decade. The states’ economies grew 25 percent from 2008 to 2015, according to the Acadia Center, a nonprofit that promotes clean energy.

Read the full article from U.S. News and World Report here.

Connecticut Passes Legislation to Promote Electric Vehicles! Will Massachusetts Be Next?

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.