Legislation Proposes All New Cars Sold in Rhode Island by 2030 be Electric
May 9, 2022
PROVIDENCE — If you want to buy a car in 10 years, your only local option could be to electric.
Under legislation (S2448) introduced by Sen. Alana DiMario, D-North Kingstown, all new cars sold or leased in Rhode Island by 2030 would have to be electric vehicles. The bill also establishes a framework to determine the infrastructure needed to charge electric vehicles and creates an environmental-justice board.
“We know this transition needs to happen and we need a strategy and a plan to get there,” DiMario said. “By 2030, every Rhode Islander buying a new car should be able to go electric without worrying where they are going to charge.”
It’s the way the manufacturers are moving, according to Mal Skowron, transportation and policy coordinator for the Green Energy Consumers Alliance.
“Honda, General Motors, and Volvo are planning on not selling gas-powered cars within the next 20 years,” she said. “It’s not a matter of if electric vehicles are coming to Rhode Island, do drivers want these cars. It’s a matter of how quickly they’re going to come, and how we can use these electric vehicles to meet our climate goals.”
Rhode Island is in desperate need of programs to tackle transportation-sector emissions. Vehicles are the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) in Rhode Island, accounting for 35% of all emissions in the state according to the latest emissions inventory from the Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
And statewide emissions are going up. DEM reported earlier this year that overall GHG emissions increased 8.2% in 2018 per its latest data, putting Rhode Island emissions 1.8% percent higher than they were in 1990.
The data show Rhode Island is currently failing the first benchmark mandate — 10% percent lower than 1990 climate emissions — established by the Act on Climate last year. State reporting also has the added knife twist of a three-year delay, meaning Rhode Island officials and the public won’t find out about the likely 2020 failure until 2023 at the earliest, far too late to change course.
Rhode Island was a key member of the Transportation & Climate Initiative — a regional cap-and-invest program that would have reduced transportation-sector emissions while raising much-needed money for green energy projects — and the last member left at the local altar when neighboring states Massachusetts and Connecticut declined to codify the program into law, citing soaring gas prices.
Rhode Island now has no plan to reduce transportation-sector emissions.
Brian Moran, director of Government Affairs for the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, told legislators last week the lobbying group favored voluntary incentives for fleet electrification and consumer adoption.
“Mandates I imagine are a little unrealistic right now,” Moran testified. “Rhode Island has the worst EV adoption rates in the country. It’s a nascent, embryonic industry right now.”
Moran also took aim at DiMario’s companion legislation to make new medium and heavy-duty vehicles have net-zero emissions by 2050.
“For heavy duty trucks, it’s still proof of concept,” he said. “We’re concerned about the interstate and the inflationary pressure this bill could do. Everything in this room is transported by a truck.”
But the future is a lot closer than proof of concept. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) recently concluded a pilot program, spending $2.5 million to lease three electric buses to run the R-Line, a bus line spanning Washington Park to Pawtucket. According to The Providence Journal, the pilot program had mixed results, with each bus battery charge only lasting about 100 miles in the cold, as opposed to the 300-mile range per charge as originally advertised.
RIPTA has ordered 14 new electric buses to replace aging diesel ones, with an expected delivery date of later this year. The agency also announced it will install on-route chargers to compensate for the lack of battery life in its electric fleet.
Heavy-duty trucks — vehicles that weigh more than 8,500 pounds — are on the way. Last week Swedish startup Volta Trucks announced it would deploy 100 of its Class 7 trucks to Los Angeles next year. These electric heavy-duty trucks have a range of 95-125 miles per charge, and are designed for urban logistics not long hauls across the American countryside.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island has let heavy-duty vehicle emissions remain unchecked for 20-plus years, after passing legislation to crack down on them. As ecoRI News reported last year, the state’s heavy-duty vehicle emissions program remains in development, 18 years after it was supposed to be implemented.
Heavy-duty vehicles represent 5% of the nation’s traffic, but account for 20% of all transportation emissions.