There are some decent electric-powered vehicles on the market now, but the American public is having a hard time giving up its addiction to SUVs and pickup trucks.
Sales of primarily electric vehicles — which pollute the atmosphere much less than vehicles running on gasoline — totalled only 96,552 in 2013, out of 15.5 million vehicles sold in the United States.
If you believe, as I do, that gasoline deserves to be yesterday’s fuel, that’s frustrating.
So kudos to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and seven other governors who have taken on an enormous challenge by adopting the Multi-State Zero-Emission Vehicles Action Plan. Its goal is to have 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on U.S. roads by 2025.
With federal transportation policy generally somewhere between shortsighted and incoherent, the states should be commended for taking on what’s really a national challenge.
The states involved — New York, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Maryland — account for 25 percent of all U.S. auto sales. That’s enough to get automakers’ attention from the Detroit River to Tokyo Bay.
As when the state of California became de-facto leader in setting national emissions standards in the 1970s, there’s the potential that the eight states have enough clout to set the standard for supporting clean-fuel vehicles and those who drive them.
“The coalition of states participating in the multi-state ZEV Action Plan is vital to creating the infrastructure needed for our nation to achieve energy diversity, reduce pollution and create jobs,” Cuomo said in a press release Thursday.
The plan calls for the states to take concrete actions, including investing in necessary infrastructure like charging stations; supporting workplace charging stations; providing consumer incentives, like tax credits; removing barriers to the retail sale of electricity as vehicle fuel; promoting compatibility for charging networks; and increasing state and private fleet use of clean-energy vehicles.
“New York’s commitment to put more zero-emission vehicles on the road is an important component of an overall strategy to reduce air pollution and combat climate change,” said state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens.
Cuomo a year ago called for building a statewide network of up to 3,000 public and workplace charging stations over the next five years; there are currently 900, more than half built since the announcement, according to the governor’s office. Cuomo has pledged to spend $50 million on infrastructure and incentives.
The interesting thing is that automakers don’t feel bullied by this government intervention in the market — or at least say they don’t.
“Now that these zero emission vehicles are on dealer lots, automakers have a huge stake in selling them in high volumes and urge consumers to consider buying ZEVs when car-shopping,” the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said. “Ten states are mandating that automakers sell ZEVs, so government must help make its ZEV mandate successful with consumer incentives and investments in charging and fueling infrastructure, along with state fleet sales.”
Automakers also think electric vehicle sales can help them achieve the 54.4 miles per gallon mileage standard the federal government has set for 2025. That’s better mileage than nearly anything on the road gets today and will require more technical advances, particularly in battery efficiency.
Watching how better mileage is achieved will be the most exciting automobile development in decades — at least to me. By 2025, I’m betting at least a few of us will have switched to driverless cars. Google prototypes already tool around the freeways of San Francisco Bay.
It would give us more time to work — or Tweet — while commuting. Sounds great, eh?