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REV2020 Recap: Toward a Zero-Emission Transportation System—Policies that Work

by | Feb 4, 2021

Transportation is the single biggest source of climate pollution in Vermont, producing 45% of our state’s greenhouse gas emissions. We simply will not achieve the necessary and legally-mandated emissions reductions without decarbonizing our transportation sector. Getting where we need to go will require more than individual choices. To create market certainty and spur private investment, we need smart legislation and policy. Last September, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the sale of new fossil-fuel cars would be banned in California beginning in 2035. With this executive order, California joined a growing number of jurisdictions that have signaled their commitment to phasing out fossil fuel vehicles. Austria, Britain, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and Taiwan all have policies in place that will prohibit sales of new fossil-fuel vehicles in the next 15 to 20 years(1). Dozens of cities, states and provinces have adopted similar targets (2).

Clockwise from top left, REV2020’s Transportation Panel featured: Sarah Houde of Propulsion Quebec; Marie-Claude Francoeur, the Quebec Delegate to New England; Sue Gander of the Electrification Coalition; and Paul Cort of the Right to Zero Campaign at Earthjustice.

The market certainty created by policies like those in California, incentivizes private investments not only in vehicle manufacturing, but across the whole electric vehicle value chain including infrastructure, supply chain, software and hardware development and even mining for the production of batteries. Vehicle manufacturers are responding to clear market signals that the future of transportation is electric. GM will sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Half of Toyota’s global sales will be electric by 2025. Volkswagen will be 40% electric by 2030. Established car manufacturers such as Honda, Volvo, Kia, Nissan, Ford, Mercedes, Audi and BMW are committing significant resources to EV development and investing heavily in new EV start-ups such as Rivian and Nikola. REV2020 brought together electric transportation experts who shared policy insights and experience from their work outside Vermont. Click here to watch the full discussion Read key takeaways below:

  • The technology for the shift to a zero-emissions transportation sector is all currently available.
  • The most effective way to accelerate the electrification of transportation is through state policy that creates market certainty and allows for meaningful planning by companies, governments and other entities. The most effective policies are electric vehicle incentives, fuel efficiency standards and investments in electric buses for public transportation. Download a free Electric Vehicle Policy Toolkit for state and municipal decision makers.
  • The cost of ownership of EVs is already positive compared to fossil-fuel vehicles. A 2020 analysis by Consumer Reports shows that an electric vehicle will save a typical consumer between $6,000 and $10,000 over the life of the car.
  • Equity is a central concern:
    • Air pollution from the current transportation system is directly linked to poor health outcomes, including much higher vulnerability to COVID. Low- and moderate-income communities as well as communities of color experience these effects disproportionately.
    • We need to ensure that the economic advantages of electric vehicles are available to all consumers, and that disadvantaged communities do not end up paying more for transportation because they are unable to access electrified transportation.
  • Transportation electrification should not be limited to electric cars, but should also include public transit, fleet vehicles, infrastructure for walking, biking and ride-sharing services, as well as trains and other long-haul shipping vehicles.
  • We need to begin thinking of the electricity grid as part of the transportation system and plan accordingly.
  • The transportation system is highly vulnerable to extreme weather events. As climate change increases the frequency of these events, we must build resilience into the transportation infrastructure just as we do for the grid and electricity systems.
  • Quebec began pricing carbon in 2006 and has since been able to invest $3 Billion in climate mitigation and adaptation efforts, including electrification of transportation. Electric transportation contributes $1.3 to Quebec’s GDP and employs 6,240 people.
  • Vermont has more chargers per capita than any other state in the country.

  1. Isabella Burch and Jock Gilchrist, Survey of Global Activity to Phase Out Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles, Revised edition March 2020.
  2. Sandra Wappelhorst and Hongyang Cui, “The countries and states leading the phase out of fossil fuel cars,” The Driven, Nov. 12, 2020.

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