Incentives for zero-emission vehicles explored to put drivers behind the wheel

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STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 10, 2016…..What’s it going to take to get you into a brand new zero emission vehicle?

Massachusetts car buyers may be hearing that question more frequently in the next decade as the state scrambles to get some 293,413 additional zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025 to fulfill its obligation to a multi-state pact that aims to help states like Massachusetts meet greenhouse gas reduction goals while also creating a sustainable consumer market for ZEVs.

Between 2011 and the end of 2015, there were 6,587 ZEVs sold in Massachusetts, according to the Association of Global Automakers, which means Massachusetts drivers will have to buy about 45 times more ZEVs in the next nine years as they did in the previous five if the state is to uphold its end of the bargain.

To help increase the adoption and use of ZEVs in Massachusetts, Sen. Jamie Eldridge and Reps. Jonathan Hecht and Frank Smizik filed a bill (S 2266) to create new incentives and policies to support ZEVs.

“It allows drivers of any battery vehicle, electric vehicle, to travel in HOV lanes … the bill would ensure open access to electric vehicle charging stations throughout the commonwealth,” Eldridge said. The bill, he added, would “help support all the important industries that are here and really another key part of Massachusetts being a state that’s committed to clean energy policy and energy efficiency, including the transportation sector.”

The three lawmakers on Tuesday hosted an hour-long briefing on ZEV technology, electric vehicle charging technology and their legislation with representatives from the auto and charging industries to detail where the state’s ZEV industry stands.

“There’s really a huge amount of innovation and upside potential in what’s going on right now in terms of the EV market, the alternative fuel market for vehicles as well as the charging infrastructure,” Hecht, a Watertown Democrat, said. “This is not, sort of, futuristic stuff anymore. This is happening right now and is happening very, very fast.”

The bill, which currently sits before the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, would also prompt the Department of Energy Resources to conduct a study of the feasibility of converting all segments of the state’s fleet to electric vehicles, and ensure that 25 percent of motor vehicles purchased each year by the state will be ZEVs by 2025.

In October 2013, former Gov. Deval Patrick signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with seven other governors to increase the number of clean energy vehicles. The target is 3.3 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025, and Massachusetts’ share of that is 300,000.

The Northeast and mid-Atlantic states participating in the MOU account for 50 percent of the goal, with the remaining 50 percent allocated to California and Oregon, according to a “Charging Up” report released last year by the Conservation Law Foundation.

“We’re pleased that your governor originally signed the MOU committing the state to do everything it can to encourage ZEV sales and that Gov. (Charlie) Baker is taking that on as well,” Amy Lilly, senior environmental regulatory engineer at Hyundai, said. “But we feel that legislation like what has been introduced is still necessary. We need a lot of incentives out there because customers, it’s a challenge to get them over the hump to want to purchase the technology.”

One factor that could be hindering efforts of the ZEV industry to boost adoption of the efficient cars is the price of gasoline. When gas prices are high, drivers have greater incentive to switch to a vehicle that does not rely on fossil fuels.

“When fuel prices go down like they’ve been going down, it makes for harder sells,” Tim Slattery, senior manager for government relations at Nissan North America, said. “When we get down to parts of Tennessee where gas was $1.39, the business case, the cost case got a little weaker. There is a direct correlation to sales.”

Through the Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles (MOR-EV) program, the state offers rebates up to $2,500 for 30 different models of electric vehicles, including three motorcycles.

Copyright 2016 State House News Service

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