The Recorder – My Turn: Driving Electric Vehicle Growth in Massachusetts

I spend a lot of time on the road, driving back and forth between western Massachusetts and Boston. I’ve noticed a steady increase in Teslas on the Mass Pike – no surprise since the California-based company dominates the US electric vehicle (EV) market with nearly 80% of new EV registrations.

American and foreign manufacturers are now catching up with Tesla. Consumers want electric vehicles for their performance and reduced climate impact, and the industry is responding.

General Motors has pledged to eliminate tailpipe emissions from all new vehicles by 2035 and last week announced a partnership with Honda to sell electric vehicles for less than $30,000 starting in 2027. Ford has announced last fall that it would invest billions of dollars in new electric vehicle and battery factories in Kentucky and Tennessee. Even Ford’s classic F-150 truck now has an electric version and sales are strong.

The news that the auto industry has pledged half a trillion dollars over the next five years to redevelop and build new factories, train employees and upgrade vehicle software is as exciting as it is essential.

The auto industry’s move away from gasoline cannot happen soon enough given the growing impacts of climate change. But state and federal governments must also be part of an orderly transition, cutting costs for buyers with deep discounts for new and used electric vehicles and building public charging infrastructure to cope with “the ‘range anxiety’ and so you don’t need a driveway to own an EV.

Last week, my Senate colleagues and I passed the “Drive Act,” a series of measures to mitigate climate change as part of our state plan to reach our goal of net zero emissions by 2050. With 40% of Massachusetts’ carbon emissions coming from our transportation sector which is one of the goals of the bill, including a proposal I introduced that would require all new cars sold in the state to be zero emissions after 2035.

California and New York have taken the lead in decarbonizing the transportation sector. In 2020, California banned the sale of new gas-powered passenger cars and trucks by 2035. The state has pledged to spend $10 billion to meet its goals, including building 250,000 vehicle chargers public electricity and 200 hydrogen refueling stations. In 2021, New York followed suit by passing a law requiring new passenger cars and trucks to be zero emissions by 2035. All new medium and heavy trucks sold in New York by 2045 must be zero episode. New York has committed more than $1 billion to achieve its goals.

The Biden administration announced a plan last summer to have half of all new cars be zero emissions by 2030 and tougher fuel efficiency and emissions standards. The president even recently invoked the Defense Production Act for the production of electric vehicle batteries.

It is time for Massachusetts to act with the same urgency. The Senate bill increases minimum rebates for electric vehicles to $3,500, adds another $1,000 rebate if a combustion engine vehicle is traded in, and more for low-income people. It also makes used electric vehicles eligible for rebates. We would invest $50 million in new electric vehicle charging stations. For transit riders, the bill also requires the MBTA to purchase and lease zero-emission buses by 2028.

The zero-emissions mandates in California, New York, and the one proposed here in Massachusetts send a signal to automakers around the world that the United States is seriously considering electrifying its cars and trucks. Automakers can be sure there will be demand for electric vehicles at all price points, not just at the luxury level. This increases production and reduces ticket prices. At the same time, I expect the early adopters of electric vehicles to trade and increase, which will expand the market for used electric vehicles and lower prices.

Putting electric vehicles on Massachusetts roads is just part of the Senate’s new $250 million plan to mitigate global warming. The Senate bill would reduce the amount of electricity generated with fossil fuels by investing in our clean energy infrastructure, updating the offshore wind supply process and supporting advances in solar energy. The bill bars biomass facilities from receiving state clean energy incentives and increases the Public Utilities Department’s control over natural gas projects. My amendment to accelerate the development of energy storage also passed.

In the construction sector, Senate legislation would create a demonstration project that would allow 10 municipalities to restrict the use of fossil fuels in new construction. The bill limits the use of Mass Save funds for fossil fuel equipment from 2025.

The United States and Massachusetts still have a long way to go to meet the climate goals we have set for ourselves. Either way, 2022 could and should be a turning point for electric vehicles and their integration into our lives. We are at a historic inflection point and we can barely imagine the transportation industry of tomorrow. But with so much at stake, Massachusetts must do its part to embrace this necessary shift.

Adam Hinds is a state senator for the district of Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden.

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