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The following commentary was written by Dave Robba and Sarah Sachs. Dave Robba is a manager on the Ceres state policy team, leading the organization’s work around multi-state transportation policies. Sarah Sachs is a senior associate on the Ceres state policy team, leading the organization’s works to mobilize investor and company support for stronger climate, clean energy, and transportation policies in California. See our commentary guidelines for more information.
Electric vehicle sales leapt in 2022 and are expected to continue their skyrocketing trajectory this year. It’s become tough to keep track of automakers’ frequent announcements of huge new EV plants being built and opening across the country. And new federal incentives just went into effect in the new year, making these vehicles even more affordable for consumers and companies.
It is clear that the road to the future will be traveled by electric and other zero-emission vehicles — and we are about to hit the accelerator on this transition.
All the momentum is driven by stakeholders across the economy. The fiercely competitive U.S. auto industry wants to maintain its global leadership. Companies that own and manage fleets see major business benefits to going electric. Consumers want to drive them. Workers want to build them. And communities near major ports and highways that have too long suffered from pollution are demanding them so they can breathe cleaner air.
Policymakers have a crucial role to play in meeting this groundswell of demand, especially at the state level. Amid the unmistakable signals of the market, government policy must chart a clear and predictable path forward for the industry that ensures the availability of these vehicles to the growing legions of companies and consumers that want them.
Several states on either side of the country — including California, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York — have already taken action, moving to adopt a policy called the Advanced Clean Cars II rule. The rule is ambitious but simple, setting increasing targets for electric vehicles over the next dozen years in those states and culminating in 2035 when 100% of all new cars sold must be zero-emission vehicles. These are not controversial concepts. We are seeing massive year-over-year growth in EV sales, which increased by two-thirds in 2022, while domestic auto giants like Ford and GM have already pledged to beat this deadline with fully electric offerings by 2030.
Meanwhile, non-auto companies are lining up to buy them. Businesses in sectors and industries across the economy see a huge opportunity to reduce costs on fuel and maintenance with clean fleets, while ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of their industries. Just look at the Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance, a coalition of more than 30 major companies including Amazon, DHL, Hertz, Lyft, and T-Mobile that is working together to accelerate this shift.
Companies are also working to achieve their own climate plans, and know they can’t succeed without public policy. Transportation remains the nation’s largest source of climate-warming pollution. While companies can take action on their own to aggressively clean up their internal operations, broad clean vehicle rules are the only way to ensure they succeed across their entire supply and value chains — whether they’re operated by the companies themselves, outside vendors, or even customers and employees coming to and from their facilities. That’s another reason leading businesses and investors — including IKEA USA, REI Co-op, Lyft, and many more — have emerged as strong advocates for the clean cars rule. Many have also championed additional state regulations to similarly manage the growth of the electric truck and van market.
The states that have adopted the Advanced Clean Cars rule are doing these companies and all other stakeholders a major service. By building this predictability into the market, they not only help manage the timeline of the switch to the vehicles themselves, but also set a pace for the build-out of charging infrastructure and additional policies to support it. And they position themselves to attract the leading companies looking to do business in places with stable and forward-looking policies. The more states that adopt the rule, the more successful it will be. As policymakers in states across the country consider the Advanced Clean Cars rule, they should know companies and investors support their efforts to ensure this transition is as smooth as the ride in an electric vehicle.