Mass. is a long way from meeting its goal for the number of electric cars on the road

A PLUGGER: Kaitlyn Buscone of Medfield charges up at the NRG EVgo Electric Vehicle Charging Station at Burlington Mall.
Following in California’s footsteps, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is proposing amendments to the Massachusetts Low Emission Vehicle Program. –REGAN COMMUNICATIONS

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) is proposing minor updates to a program meant to increase sales of electric vehicles in pursuit of a 2025 goal that currently seems a long way away.

Under the Massachusetts Low Emission Vehicle Program, the state has pledged to keep in line with California’s vehicle emission standards since the 1990s when Governor Bill Weld was in office. The “fundamental goal of the program,’’ as MassDEP said in a document laying out the proposed amendments, remains the “commercialization of ZEV (zero emissions vehicles) technologies.’’

California has updated its ZEV standards several times since the early 90s, which has prompted Massachusetts to follow suit.

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In a hearing Tuesday, officials planned to take public input on how to implement California’s latest tweaks here in Massachusetts. Written public comment on the issue is welcome until December 4.

The changes come at a time when Massachusetts is looking to drastically increase the number of ZEVs in the state.

In 2014, under former Governor Deval Patrick, Massachusetts entered into an agreement with seven other states to get 3.3 million (ZEVs) on the road by 2025. Under the agreement, the Bay State is required to get 300,000 ZEVs on the road, eventually accounting for roughly 15 percent of all new vehicle sales.

But the state has a long way to go to meet that goal. Ed Coletta, a spokesperson for MassDEP, confirmed Massachusetts currently has only around 5,000 electric and alternative fuel technology vehicles on the road today.

Despite the slow start, Coletta expressed confidence Massachusetts can meet its 300,000 benchmark in the next 10 years.

“We’ve seen a decent bump in the last year or two and are working hard to make it a reality,’’ said Coletta in a phone interview.

Coletta says Massachusetts already has several initiatives in place to encourage the sale of electric and alternative fuel vehicles. For example, the state offers a tax rebate of up to $2,500 for buyers who go electric. Another state program also offers employers with 15 employees or more up to $25,000 to cover the hardware costs of installing charging stations for their employees and clients.

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According to State House News Service, over 200 Massachusetts employers have been approved for these grants.

MassDEP believes increasing the number of ZEVs on the road in Massachusetts will reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the Commonwealth. According to the agency, the benefits of boosting the amount of ZEVs on the road includes decreased demand for fossil fuels and fewer pollutants that can harm public health by increasing the risk of cancer, asthma, and cardio-pulmonary diseases.

“The purpose of the hearing is to collect public comment on changes to regulations related to EVs,’’ said Coletta. “So we’re implementing new programs to advance EVs, but staying in step with our greenhouse gas and low emission goals.’’

You can submit written comment here until 5 p.m. December 4.

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Correction:A previous version of this story indicated MassDEP is soliciting ideas for how to increase sales of ZEVs. In fact, the agency is accepting public comment on specific proposed amendments to the Massachusetts Low Emmission Vehicle Program, the overall goal of which is to encourage the commercialization of ZEVs.

[h/t State House News Service]

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