Transportation

Policies that encourage electrification, reduce vehicle use, and otherwise reduce emissions in the transportation sector

Vehicle Standards

Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) Standards

Under the Clean Air Act, California has the authority to establish vehicle emission standards stricter than federal standards, which are referred to as low-emission vehicle standards. This policy requires automakers to introduce lower-emitting cars and trucks to collectively emit fewer greenhouse gases and local pollutants with each model year.

Under Section 177 of the Clean Air Act, other states may adopt California’s more stringent tailpipe emission standards. More than a dozen states have adopted the standards in lieu of federal requirements. These states are also known as “Section 177 States.”

Key Resources

Model States

    Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandates

    Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandates require automakers to produce and sell a certain number of zero-emission vehicles to fulfill a quota based on a percentage of total sales in states with a mandate. ZEVs typically include plug-in hybrids, battery EVs, and full-cell vehicles. The ZEV sales requirement typically increases over time, and some states have set a target for 100% of all new vehicle sales to be electric vehicles by 2030 or 2035.

    This policy requires automakers to produce EVs regardless of demand, even if they are not yet economically profitable, and requires dealers to sell the vehicles. If they cannot meet the quota, automakers must pay a fine or buy credits from another company that has produced and sold more than their quota of ZEVs. ZEV mandates are a “technology-forcing policy,” encouraging automakers to produce cars with longer ranges, as vehicles sold with longer electric ranges earn more credits toward satisfying the mandate.

    Key Resources

    Model States

    • California Zero-Emission Vehicle Regulations
    • Colorado Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate
    • Clean Cars Minnesota
    • Washington SB 1287 — Requires that all publicly and privately owned passenger and light duty vehicles of model year 2030 or later be electric, and sets several planning processes in motion.

      Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero-Emission Vehicle Sales Standards

      Medium- and Heavy-Duty Vehicle (MHDVs) Sales Standards are policies to reduce emissions and fuel consumption in fossil fuel-powered vehicles such as heavy-duty pickup trucks, vans, tractors, and vocational vehicles. The policy requires automakers to produce and sell a certain number of zero emission MDHVs to fulfill a quota based on a percentage of total sales in states with a mandate. This share of new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales in a state that must be electric typically increases over time, to ensure a greater number of new vehicles purchased are electric. States working to implement a MDHV sales target have a goal of 30% of all new MDHV sales are electric vehicles by 2030, and 100% of new MDHV sales are electric vehicles by 2050.

      Key Resources

      Model States

      • California Zero-Emission Vehicle Regulations
      • Colorado Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate
      • Clean Cars Minnesota
      • Washington SB 1287 — Requires that all publicly and privately owned passenger and light duty vehicles of model year 2030 or later be electric, and sets several planning processes in motion.

        Electric Vehicle Adoption

        Electric Vehicle Incentives

        From the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE): One of the most important barriers to increased adoption of alternative-fueled vehicles (AFVs) is their typically-higher upfront cost as compared to a similar traditionally-fueled vehicle. Also, because they are relatively new to the market, many consumers are hesitant to spend the upfront money required to purchase an AFV when they can stay with something they are used to. 

        Consumer hesitancy can be ameliorated through a range of state policies that provide incentives for the purchase of AFVs. Incentives can also support the conversion of existing vehicles to alternative fuels. AFV adoption can also be spurred by ensuring that the use of an AFV is as or more convenient than the use of a conventional vehicle. State programs that provide these other types of incentives aim to make AFV ownership attractive.

        The key components of an Advanced Vehicle Incentive policy to evaluate are:

        • Programs can be targeted to one, some, or all of the following: individuals, businesses, or units of government.
        • Programs can be directed toward incentivizing the use of one, some, or all of the following alternative fuels: electricity, hydrogen, natural gas, biofuels, or propane.
        • Loan, grant, rebate, and voucher programs must have a dedicated funding source.
        • Tax credits and rebates can be issued one-time to support initial AFV purchases or can provide discounts for the lifetime of the vehicle (e.g. rebates for replacement batteries).
        • Tax credit, loan, and rebate policies can include sunset provisions that coincide with a state goal for a certain number or percentage of AFVs in the state’s overall fleet.

        Click here to learn more about the different types of AFV incentives.

        Key Resources

        Model States

          Charging Infrastructure Incentives

          From the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE): The relationship between the increased adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and the availability of EV charging stations is complicated. On the one hand, consumer range anxiety creates a barrier to increased adoption. On the other hand, while greater availability of charging stations would ease this anxiety, the relatively low numbers of vehicles on the road provides little incentive to install and make these stations available to the public. Both supportive policies for developing charging infrastructure and advancements in technology have eased range anxiety. 

          The key components of an EV Charging Infrastructure Incentive policy to evaluate are:

          • Coordination with electric utilities is key. Programs to provide access to EV registration data by service territory can assist utility planning for shifting demand.
          • Authorize utilities to earn a rate of return on their investments in EV charging infrastructure.
          • Programs can be targeted to one, some, or all of the following: single-family homes, multifamily dwellings, businesses, or units of government.
          • Eligibility for incentives can be limited to systems that comply with state codes or federal standards.
          • Loan, grant, and rebate programs should have a dedicated funding source.

          Click here to learn more about the different types of EV charging infrastructure policies.

          Key Resources

          Model States

            Government Fleet Requirements

            Government Fleet Requirements

            State government fleet requirements aim to increase electric vehicle adoption of light and heavy duty vehicles. Known as “lead by example,” this policy follows the concept that state governments can make significant changes that inspire local governments, and potentially individuals, to follow suit.  For government vehicle fleets, including school buses, public transit buses, and emergency response vehicles, states may establish fuel efficiency or electric vehicle requirements. These requirements typically become more stringent over time, making a greater share of vehicle fleets more efficient and/or zero emission.

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            Model States

              Market Mechanisms and Price Incentives

              Carbon Pollution Pricing

              Carbon pollution pricing is a market-based mechanism that aims to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by either imposing a fee or a cap on carbon dioxide emissions. In the transportation sector, this applies to transportation fuels, such as gasoline and diesel. 

              A price on carbon pollution reduces greenhouse gas emissions in two ways. First, it creates an incentive for companies and individuals to shift away from vehicles with internal combustion engines, toward cleaner transportation modes including public transit, active mobility, or electric vehicles. Second, it can generate substantial revenue to invest in the transition to clean energy, such as subsidizing clean vehicle purchases, electrifying rail and bus systems, and improving active mobility infrastructure.

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              Model States

                Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)

                A low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) is a market-based mechanism to reduce the carbon emissions of transportation fuels. An LCFS focuses on the carbon intensity of transportation fuels and accounts for the fuel’s life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, so the policy applies to emissions created during production, transportation, and eventual consumption of the fuel. Instead of establishing a standard that must be met by vehicle producers or owners, an LCFS program requires fuel producers to meet an emissions standard, or trade credits to comply with the program. This emissions standard becomes more stringent over time, driving down the carbon intensity of fuels, and therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

                An LCFS is technology-neutral — it does not mandate or outlaw the use of any particular fuel product, simply incentivizes the products which perform best against the standard.

                Key Resources

                  Model States

                      Congestion Pricing

                      Congestion pricing aims to reduce road congestion by charging a fee for driving on certain roads, typically in urban areas. Congestion pricing can be a flat fee or it can be a dynamic price that changes based on factors like time of day or traffic levels. The policy aims to shift the time, mode, route, or overall number of drivers along routes of high traffic congestion, and to raise revenue for road and transit infrastructure maintenance and repair.

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                        Model States

                            Measures to Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)

                            Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) measures the amount of travel for vehicles in a given geographic area, such as a state or local level. VMT has been increasing over several decades, largely due to urban sprawl and development in less populated areas. There are a variety of interventions that can be implemented to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and therefore greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. Policy options include:

                            • Adjust parking regulations to reduce the availability of free individual car parking or create priority parking spaces for low- or zero-emission vehicles.
                            • Change access regulations in urban areas to create car-free zones or low-emission vehicle only zones.
                            • Implement a VMT-based fee or a tax on vehicle purchase and/or ownership to disincentivize vehicle ownership, which can be tailored to be lower for low- or zero-emission vehicles.
                            • Support and improve alternative modes of transportation to personal vehicles, such as public transit and active mobility infrastructure like bike racks, safe bike lanes, and safe sidewalks.
                            • Encourage development in existing developed areas or to repurpose existing buildings through tax credits and other incentives, rather than development in less-dense areas contributing to sprawl.

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                              Model States

                                  Public Transportation

                                  Public Transit Electrification

                                  Electrifying public transit vehicles is a straightforward intervention to reduce emissions. The majority of transit buses and commuter rail lines operating in the U.S. are fueled by diesel, emitting greenhouse gases and local air pollutants. States can allocate funding to replace diesel buses with battery-electric buses and convert diesel locomotives to an electric train fleet.

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                                    Model States

                                        Public Transit Affordability

                                        A low-carbon, efficient transportation system requires access to clean, affordable transportation options for all users. Low-income individuals currently use transit in greater numbers than wealthier individuals, however, lower-income riders are often unable to pay for trips to meet their daily needs. Making public transit more affordable can help meet this need and give riders access to low-carbon transportation options. Improving transit affordability can incentivize increased public transit use for individuals driving personal vehicles as well — lower fares can make public transit more affordable or desirable than driving private vehicles. Fare elasticity is higher in the long term and lower in the short term, so changes in pricing may take a while to impact travelers’ choices.

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                                          Model States

                                              Public Transit Expansion

                                              If other measures to incentivize travel mode switching are successful, public transportation systems will experience steadily increasing demand. The sustainability of these changes will depend in part on whether the transit system can accommodate that increased demand, so expansion of existing transit services is crucial. There are a few different mechanisms for this: 

                                              • Instituting bus-only lanes and/or priority signals for buses, to decrease bus travel time and reduce bus congestion. Transit signal priority systems equip buses with sensors that grant them priority when approaching an intersection.
                                              • Expand rapid transit bus networks. Rapid transit bus networks typically drive on exclusive bus-only lanes or roads and are separate from other traffic, increasing their speed and punctuality and leading to a more efficient travel experience.
                                              • Enhanced public transit infrastructure: improving the quality and capacity of public transit infrastructure will further incentivize the increased ridership.

                                              Key Resources

                                                Model States

                                                • Maine LD 1429 would commit $400,000 per year for public transportation expansion and to bring public transportation funding to $5 per capita by 2024, as recommended by the Maine Climate Council

                                                    Other Policies

                                                    Climate Governance & Equity

                                                    Adaptation & Resilience

                                                    Electricity

                                                    Buildings & Efficiency

                                                    Agriculture

                                                    Industry, Materials & Waste Management

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