Sen. Adam Hinds: Driving electric vehicle growth in Mass

  • In this Oct. 20, 2019, photo an unsold 2019 Model X sits under a sign at a Tesla dealership in Littleton, Colorado. Tesla says its global deliveries rose more than 50% last year meaning the company surpassed the low end of its sales goals for 2019. AP

Published: 4/15/2022 2:01:30 PM
Modified: 4/15/2022 2:00:22 PM

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

U.S. and overseas manufacturers are now playing catch-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 for all new vehicles by 2035 and last week announced a partnership with Honda to sell EVs for under $30,000 beginning in 2027. Ford announced last fall that it is investing billions of dollars in new EV and battery plants in Kentucky and Tennessee. Even Ford’s classic F-150 truck now has an electric version and sales are strong.

News that the auto industry has pledged half a trillion dollars in the next five years to remodel and build new factories, train employees and modernize vehicle software is as exciting as it is critical.

The auto industry’s move away from gasoline can’t come soon enough given escalating climate change impacts. But state and federal government must be part of an orderly transition as well, by bringing costs down for buyers with sizable rebates for new and used EVs and by building out public charging infrastructure to address “range anxiety” and so you don’t need a driveway to own an EV.

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

California and New York have taken the lead on decarbonizing the transportation sector. In 2020, California banned the sale of new, gas-powered passenger cars and trucks by 2035. The state committed to spend $10 billion to reach its goals, which includes building 250,000 public electric vehicle chargers and 200 hydrogen fueling stations. In 2021, New York followed suit, passing a law that requires new passenger cars and trucks to be zero-emission by 2035. All new medium and heavy-duty trucks sold in New York by 2045 are to be zero-emission. New York committed more than $1 billion to reach its goals.

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

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

The zero-emission mandates in California, New York, and the one proposed here in Massachusetts send a signal to automakers across the globe that the U.S. is getting serious about electrifying its cars and trucks. Automakers can be confident there will be demand for EVs at all price points, not just at the luxury level. That helps expand production and reduce ticket prices. At the same time, I expect early adopters of EVs to trade in and up, which will expand the used EV market and drive down prices.

Putting EVs on Massachusetts’ roads is only part of the Senate’s new 250-million-dollar plan to mitigate climate warming. The Senate bill would decrease the amount of electricity generated with fossil fuels by investing in our clean energy infrastructure, updating the offshore wind procurement process, and by supporting advances in solar power. The bill prevents biomass facilities from receiving the state’s clean energy incentives and increases Department of Public Utility scrutiny on natural gas projects. My amendment to accelerate energy storage development was also adopted.

In the construction sector, the 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 Mass Save funds being used for fossil fuel equipment beginning in 2025.

The U.S. and Massachusetts have a long way to go to meet the climate targets we’ve set for ourselves. Regardless, 2022 could, and should, be a turning point for electric vehicles and their integration into our lives. We’re at a historical inflection point and we can barely envision the transportation industry of tomorrow. But with so much at stake Massachusetts must do its part to embrace this necessary turn.

Adam Hinds is state senator for the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden District.

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