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Research Shows Incentives to Purchase Electric Vehicles Are Working

According to a report by the Electrification Coalition, incentives and other public policy have led to increased sales of zero emissions vehicles.

Financial incentives, along with market variety and falling prices, are all helping consumers along the path toward electric vehicles. But public policy has also helped to drive the purchase of electric-powered cars.
These are some of the findings in a new report by the Electrification Coalition, which aims to advance the use of electric vehicles to help reduce the country’s dependence on oil.
The report, known as the ZEV (Zero Emissions Vehicles) State Policy Scorecard, looked at the 10 states that have adopted ZEV Programs. California, which has seen the purchase of more than 356,000 electric cars since 2011, leads the ranking.
The market-share of electric vehicles in the state is at 5 percent, the highest in the country. As part of its ZEV Program, California requires automakers to put a certain percentage of zero emission cars — battery-electric and fuel-cell vehicles — on the market. The program also allows for plug-in hybrids, clean hybrids and gasoline vehicles with near-zero tailpipe emissions.
This policy has been followed by Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon and Maine.
“They have what you might call ‘model policies’ that other states should be looking to these ZEV states and the policies that they’ve implemented to really help create and foster that supportive environment,” Jeff Gerlach, senior policy analyst at the Electrification Coalition, said.
As part of their ZEV policy packages, states have often turned to financial incentives to lure buyers toward an electric vehicle. For example, in addition to the $7,500 federal tax credit, Maryland offers a 40 percent rebate on the cost of electric vehicle home chargers and another tax credit of $100 per kilowatt-hour of battery capacity.
And these rebates tend to resonate better with buyers, Gerlach said.
“We know that rebates and tax exemptions — or what they call ‘cash on the hood’ — are much more effective that tax credits that a consumer would have to wait months to get,” he said. 
“Rebates can happen within a few weeks, which is obviously ideal,” Gerlach added.
However, states wanting to increase EV purchases ought to take a multipronged approach, experts warn, with an added focus on education and outreach.
“It doesn’t really help to have those incentives available if the public remains unaware of what’s going on,” said Gerlach. 
Officials in downtown Columbus, Ohio, are set to open its Experience Center on June 30. It’s a place where residents can learn about electric vehicles, incentives offered and even test-drive vehicles from major manufacturers.
In recent years, consumers have had an increasing number of EV models to choose from; this combined with decreasing costs for crucial components like batteries has helped to spur adoption of the cars by daily drivers.
“We’ve seen more than 700,000 EVs sold in the U.S. since 2011,” said Gerlach.
This statistic notwithstanding, EVs still make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. auto market share.
The other somewhat peripheral force that could further electric vehicle adoption is the growth of autonomous vehicles. About half of the 56 companies the California Department of Motor Vehicles has permitted to test autonomous vehicles are testing electrically powered cars.
“We really see this as an important signal to where industry thinks things are headed,” said Gerlach.
“EVs haven’t truly taken off to a point where we can see and observe significant reductions in our nation’s oil dependence. And this is really where we think autonomous vehicle technology can make a difference, and act as an accelerant to EV adoption,” he added.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.