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Opportunity Knocked: Nobody Answered

Last weekend, the Massachusetts Legislature had an opportunity to score an easy win for consumers and deliver on a commitment made to sell electric vehicles by including incentives for these vehicles in its ‘Energy Diversity’ bill. Unfortunately, the Legislature dropped the provisions from the Senate bill, and the final version was passed without a care for the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate.

Just over 7,000 electric vehicles have been sold in the Bay State since 2011, barely a fraction of Massachusetts’ commitment to sell 300,000 ZEVs through 2025. These sales have been aided by supportive efforts on behalf of the Commonwealth – like the MOR-EV rebates, partnerships to increase the number of workplace charging stations, and most recently Mass DOT’s initiative to install fast charging stations on the Mass Pike.

However, the state has neglected to pass any legislation related to electric vehicles during the 2015-16 legislature calendar year. And so, the wide gap remains between the states’ ambitious commitment and where the rubber actually meets the road.

Interestingly, the Legislature’s failure to take action on ZEVs came just one week after the environmental agencies of six states – including the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection – wrote a letter to California’s environmental regulators to “stress the importance of ensuring the robust and binding ZEV requirements take effect in our states” and to state they “remain ready and committed to supporting ZEVs.”

Is this just another example of the left hand of government not knowing what the right hand is doing? Or is it indicative of a more unique dilemma -- that, while the Northeast states have committed to incredibly ambitious goals, policymakers are failing to provide the consistent and ongoing support needed in order to meet the targets?

The basic strategy to achieve the state and national ZEV sales goals is fairly simple: the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, along with the other Northeast states, must build infrastructure and offer incentives for consumers to purchase ZEVs and implement policies – such as tax credits, grants, and rebates – that foster the growth of a sustainable electric vehicle market throughout the region.

Automakers continue to make huge investments in technology to meet the lofty sales mandate; a goal that fails to consider market conditions, infrastructure availability or comparable greenhouse gas reductions from non-ZEVs.

They say learning from your mistakes is a sure way to improve. Let’s hope next year’s Legislature reflects on this year’s mistakes – so an already steep road will not become even tougher to climb.