Building the market: Putting Zero-Emission Vehicles on the road

By Mary Ebeling

We rarely give a second thought to the infrastructure of the humble gas station—its existence is taken for granted—but it took decades for the service station infrastructure to be built out, enabling longer- distance travel. As we enter an era where more drivers are considering adopting electric vehicles, infrastructure to “fuel” these zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) is lacking in a similar way to the early automobile period’s gas station shortage. In particular, the market has been slow to respond to the need for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. A new coalition of eight states on both coasts has released a plan to speed the adoption of ZEV technology and address this infrastructure gap. The coalition states all have ambitious GHG reduction and other air quality goals and are leveraging that influence over the national automobile market.

Participating states include California, Oregon, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  “The [plan’s] ultimate goal is to reduce greenhouse gas and smog-causing emissions by transforming the transportation sector….” Currently, the relative scarcity of charging stations for electric vehicles is a strong factor limiting adoption of this new technology. Additionally, these stations need to offer a fast charge.

The partnership has set a goal of 3.3 million ZEVs on the road by 2025. Nationwide the participating states account for a quarter of new car sales, suggesting this collaboration will have significant impact on the automobile market and availability of ZEV cars and charging stations. According to Ashley Horvat, chief electric vehicle officer for ODOT, this is “a concrete way of telling automakers that we’re wanting to work together to make this happen.” To support development of charging infrastructure, and adoption of ZEVs, outreach efforts can and should work in tandem with providing numerous charging stations to speed adoption of these vehicles. Programs to encourage adoption of ZEVs extend to new outreach and economic development programs. Vermont, Maryland, and Oregon are planning to install charging stations along designated EV corridors along with other incentives to spur greener tourism. One of Vermont’s corridors extends to Quebec, where it could link with a future Canadian EV corridor. Oregon, California, and Washington are currently planning a West Coast Electric Highway Program to create a long-distance EV corridor with 43 fast-charging EV stations.

Mary Ebeling is a Transportation Policy Analyst at SSTI.