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One Step Forward – Two Steps Back

Last week, two companion transportation bills were filed in California that would impose registration fees for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). Which raises an obvious question: Why make it harder for consumers who want to purchase ZEVs?

When states take one step forward and two steps back, we continue to be concerned about their willingness to fulfill their commitments to build ZEV markets.

Manufacturers are trying to meet the California mandate to sell ZEVs and are doing their part by offering nearly thirty-five of these vehicles for sale. But unfortunately, we still have a long way to go to meet the mandate in California, and in the nine other states that have adopted it. In the last seven years, consumers have purchased over 234,000 electric vehicles in California, with a whopping 1.2 million more to go to meet the 2025 sales mandate, just nine years away. To put it another way, the California new vehicle market needs to go from less than 4% today, to 15% or more by 2025. The task is ever more daunting in the other nine states.

More needs to be done. Building a robust and sustainable ZEV market cannot be accomplished simply by the automakers’ making these vehicles available for sale. States play an important role by creating incentives and funding electric chargers and hydrogen stations.  But the states sometimes act at cross purposes.

For example, in September California provided $133M in Clean Vehicle Rebate Program funding, supporting and encouraging customers to buy electric vehicles. At the same time, the state failed to extend the highly successful sticker program that provides HOV lane access to these same vehicles, putting an important customer incentive at risk. Add on an additional fee for these vehicles, and the message on why customers should buy an EV gets harder to read.

We – and our members – respect and support the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the number of electric vehicles on the road. In fact, two-thirds of the green vehicles sold last year in California came from our members. To build the sustainable electric vehicle market that automakers and policymakers seek to achieve, each party needs to do their part. Lawmakers at the state and federal level need to both invest in incentives and not discourage customers from the vehicles just when they are getting on the roads. As the saying goes, rising tides raises all ships – or in this case, electric cars.