If the Earth spun according to the laws of social change, and electric vehicle deployment, dawn would rise in the West and set in the East. With California creating its own Federally sanctioned zero-emission vehicle program and drafting some of the most forward leaning PEV policies in the U.S., it now accounts for the sale of one out of every three vehicle sales. In 2013, Washington State became home to more Tesla S sales per capita than even California, and the highest percentage of domestic PEV sales (1.6%). Not to be out done in 2013, Hawai’i bumped California to third, tying Washington’s sales percentage. Oregon consistently has the most public charging stations of any state and is in the top five domestic sales markets. Collectively, California, Oregon and Washington have electrified their respective sections of Interstate Five– the West Coast Green Highway. It’s easy to see why, then, when I leave my neighborhood in a suburb north of Portland, I usually stop counting Nissan LEAFs and feel twinges of pride at how far in the past four years our region has pushed this technology to the forefront of our neighbor’s consciousnesses.
And now, the West casts its dawn light far to the East, illuminating for others the virtues of this amazing technology, the plug-in electric vehicle.
In September, Massachusetts convened the first meeting of the Massachusetts EV Initiative Task Force (“MEVI”), in Boston, comprised of utilities, auto manufacturers like Nissan and Toyota, charging station providers, local governments, NGO’s like the Sierra Club, Plug In America, and Conservation Law Foundation, Environment Northeast and critical state agencies. Working to make the Bay State a fast follower, MEVI’s work groups have drafted recommendations for three critical areas of public policy- Outreach, Infrastructure and Incentives. At the same time, the Mass Department of Public Utilities has opened an EV Docket designed to address a litany of familiar consumer and electric utility issues associated with charging- such as whether public charging station providers should be regulated like utilities, will utilities be allowed to play in the infrastructure field, will EV charging be required to have separate meters- issues which western states have resolved with mixed success. Indeed, as proof of its appetite to lead New England’s efforts to electrify, Massachusetts celebrated a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its first DCQC– February 18th at the UMass-Amherst campus and announced a state-based $2500 point of sale rebate for PEVs.
Even in Maine, (at Cadillac Mountain) where dawn officially first arrives each day in the United States, charging stations are springing up. A coalition of diverse stakeholders, including Plug In America, the American Lung Association of the Northeast, the Conservation Law Foundation, Environment Northeast, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Nissan USA and the state’s largest utility, Central Maine Power, has embarked on an EV Pilot with grant funding to install infrastructure and provide vehicles to qualifying local communities, organization and businesses. The “other” Portland’s DCQC will be installed downtown at the Fore Street Garage in April, soon to be followed by the City of South Portland’s placement of a Nissan DCQC at its Community Center. At the same time, matching grants are being provided to Greater Portland businesses and local governments to help purchase vehicles and hasten public awareness of the viability of PEVs. Workplace charging is scheduled at IDEXX, one of the area’s largest employers.
Traditionally dependent on oil for heating and transportation, New England is poised to learn from the lessons to the West. And now we can truly say the EV’s cast a light from sea to shining sea.