Massachusetts and seven other states on Thursday affirmed plans to put 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, as officials outlined initiatives designed to help build consumer interest and the infrastructure to support growth in the electric and fuel-cell car market.
The multi-state pact aims to help states like Massachusetts meet their greenhouse gas reduction goals while also creating demand for a new generation of vehicles that officials said are both environmentally friendly and able to save drivers money while also being fun to drive.
Gov. Deval Patrick last October signed a memorandum of understanding with governors of the other participating East Coast and West Coast states committing Massachusetts to the goal of putting 3.3 million zero-emission cars on the road over the next 11 years. Achieving that goal will require boosting the market share of electric cars, hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to 15 percent of all new vehicles sold in the eight states.
The states are California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The so-called multi-state ZEV action plan released on Thursday lays out steps state can take to help build consumer demand for zero-emission vehicles, including purchasing incentives, access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes regardless of the number of passengers, and preferred parking. The state should also promote private and public purchases of electric vehicle fleets and seek to remove obstacles to installing charging stations and to develop signage directing drivers to charging locations.
The state also agreed to lobby the federal government to maintain its $7,500 income tax credit for the purchase of a zero-emission vehicle.
“Today's plan builds on Massachusetts' nation-leading efforts to use renewable energy technology to reduce carbon emissions," Gov. Patrick said in a statement. “By promoting the use of plug-in vehicles through the Commonwealth's electric vehicle initiative and an array of consumer and fleet incentives, we are able to give motorists choices in the vehicles they drive and cleaner, less expensive fuel to power them.”
Christine Kirby, director of the division of air and climate programs at the Department of Environmental Protection, joined her counterparts from the other states on a conference call Thursday to introduce the action plan.
Kirby said Massachusetts is preparing to go live this summer with a consumer purchase rebate program to provide rebates of $2,500 for fuel cell vehicles and plug-in electric vehicles with large batteries, and a rebate of $1,500 for plug-in electric vehicles with smaller batteries. The program is being funded with the proceeds from regional greenhouse gas emission credits sold at auction to power generators as part of a multi-state compact.
The state has also created a $2.5 million fund to offer incentives for municipalities and colleges to buy electric vehicles and install charging stations, and under the Clean Vehicle Grant Program has put funding in place for approximately 15 DC fast-charging stations to be located along interstate travel routes.
“We have invested quite a bit of money,” Kirby said.
According to the authors of the plan, 22 plug-in electric vehicle models from nine manufacturers are expected to be available for sale or lease in 2014, including 13 models that run entirely on batteries and nine that are plug-in hybrids that can run on gasoline as well as the battery.
Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are far less prevalent, with manufacturers opting to test the market in Europe first and piloting sales in California where one hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle model is currently available for lease and another two are expected beginning in model year 2015.
California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols said California is committed to building the charging infrastructure to support a hydrogen fuel cell car market, and officials from Connecticut said the fuel cell industry in that state is large and state leaders have been talking with fuel stations about how to build out the infrastructure.
Nichols said the 3.3 million vehicle goal is “a floor not a ceiling.” “We think we can do better,” she said.
Industry experts, however, have doubts about how fast the zero-emission vehicle market can grow.
According to reports, Morgan Stanley research analyst Adam Jonas said this week that electric car sales have fallen well below expectations of 5 percent to 10 percent market penetration by 2020, and may be in the 1 percent range. Jonas noted that the CEO of Fiat Chrysler recently urged consumers not to buy the electric version of the Fiat 500 because he takes a $14,000 hit on every model sold.
Leaders involved in developing the action plan said they worked closely with those in the automotive industry who remain interested and committed to building a market for electric vehicles and confident that it can be successful.
Massachusetts energy officials in March celebrated the launch of an all-electric transit bus fleet in Worcester purchased by the regional transit authority for $7 million. The Patrick administration also awarded nearly $600,000 in grants to 16 municipalities, including $110,000 for Somerville and $60,000 for Boston, the Mass. Maritime Academy and UMass Medical School, and the Department of Environmental Protection to acquire plug-in hybrid or battery-electric vehicles and to install Level 2 charging stations.
The administration estimated that $20 million has been invested so far in electric and alternative fuel vehicles in Massachusetts.