The notoriously smoggy skies of Los Angeles, New York City, and Boston can look forward to a brighter future. Leaders from 8 states across the country recently pledged to work together to bring 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) to the road by 2025.
That’s more than 15 times as many ZEVs estimated to be in use countrywide in 2015. Whoa. And of course, more battery-powered cars, plug-in hybrids, and other clean-burning vehicles on the road means less auto-related pollution.
But, with range anxiety mounting and the often hefty price tag on clean-burning vehicles, how do they plan on achieving such a sizable feat?
8 states reach an agreement
The 8 states involved in the pledge make up a whopping 23 percent of the U.S. auto market. California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont have each adopted their own rules requiring that a certain percentage of new vehicles sold must be ZEVs. California’s goal of 15.4 percent, for example, calls for 1.5 million ZEVs to be on the road by 2025. That’s quite the increase — currently, electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids make up only about 2 percent of the state’s auto sales.
In order to achieve this goal, California and the other 7 states have legislation and incentive programs in place to promote the use of ZEVs. In fact, the Golden State offers up to $2,500 in rebates for people who purchase clean-burning vehicles.
California already leads the country in the sale of ZEVs, but has further committed to dedicating $20 million annually to build charging stations and other infrastructure through 2024 or until 100 hydrogen stations are built, whichever happens first.
The 8-state agreement requires no financial commitment, but is meant to synchronize individual state efforts, streamlining the implementation of ZEV incentives and infrastructure. The states also agreed to share research findings and coordinate an education and outreach campaign that raises consumer awareness.
Of course, there are always skeptics. Some believe this goal is unattainable because of a perceived lack of public interest and a real lack of public infrastructure. The 8 states are addressing the infrastructure issue and aiming to provide incentives and raise awareness for the everyday motorist — but are drivers buying it?
The reservations about zero-emission vehicles
There are plenty of stories citing range anxiety as one of the main reasons why consumers aren’t purchasing ZEVs. And it’s a legitimate concern — vehicles like the Nissan Leaf have a range of less than 90 miles.
Paired with a higher price tag and a lack of charging stations (especially in more remote locations), most people still opt for traditional gas-powered cars. Automakers agree that networks of charging stations and other infrastructure are key to converting drivers who fear getting stranded with a dead battery.
Numbers show zero-emission vehicles catching on
Nonetheless, the market for ZEVs is experiencing a sea of change. In 2012, electric car sales in the U.S. nearly tripled over the previous year — from 17,000 in 2011 to about 52,000 in 2012.
Toyota is leading the way to promote clean-burning vehicles. In 2013, they announced that their 2014 Prius plug-in hybrid will get a $2,000-$4,500 price cut (depending on whether or not you choose the base model or the advanced). The company also revealed the concept for their first production fuel cell vehicle at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show. It’s expected to launch in 2015 with a driving range and refueling time similar to that of a traditional gas-powered car.