Legislature Passes Two Electric Vehicle Bills

Imagine a transportation system with lots of options for getting around. Imagine vehicles that produce no air pollution and are safe for our climate. Those solutions are needed to tackle the fact that nearly 40% of Oregon’s climate pollution is caused by transportation and that transportation is also a major contributor to smog and soot that harm our health.

The good news is that we can get there. On the vehicle technology front, Oregon has taken action in the last few years to promote the adoption of electric vehicles, also known as zero emission vehicles (ZEVs), allowing utilities to invest in charging stations and providing state rebates so that individuals can purchase electric vehicles. However, until now, there has been no longer-term vision for when and how much we need to transition to electric cars and trucks, nor centralized monitoring and assessment of progress. This makes it difficult to see where we are and what other tools are needed to make progress.

That’s why we’re thrilled at the passage of Senate Bill 1044. SB 1044 focuses the state’s work to increase the proportion of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) over the next ten years. The legislation establishes metrics for success–like how many new electric cars are being sold and are they reaching lower-income households?–and assigns responsibility for measuring them to the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE). Every other year, ODOE will provide a report on the adoption of ZEVs and the progress the state is making to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. This will provide valuable accountability, and allow the state and other stakeholders to identify opportunities and challenges in making progress toward the state’s climate goals.

SB1044 also reinforces and expands on the existing requirement for state agencies to choose a zero-emissions vehicle for new purchases or leases, and removes the loophole that allows state agencies to avoid this by citing the higher cost of ZEVs. Electric vehicles have lower maintenance and fuel costs than fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, even though the up-front cost may be higher. According to Senator Lee Beyer, the carrier of the bill, “it sets the state on the process of leading by example, or walking the talk, if you will.”

A related bill,  Senate Bill 411, is also awaiting the Governor’s signature. This bill amends existing law that allows heavy-duty vehicles to be heavier than the current weight limit if they are powered by natural gas. The amendment allows the same exception for vehicles that are powered primarily by means of an electric battery. Batteries are heavy, and electric trucks tend to be heavier than fossil-fuel powered trucks. This amendment allows some flexibility to support the electrification of heavy-duty vehicles, which can make a big impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

These bills move us forward toward decarbonizing Oregon’s transportation system. Oregon Environmental Council supported these bills and will continue to advance and monitor state policies and practices that will create a cleaner transportation future.

Learn more about how electric cars are a clean and affordable way to get around.

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