The Current State of EV Policy in the United States

Cities and states across America are beginning to take more strides toward fully adopting electric vehicles (EVs) and integrating them into the fabric of their road and urban infrastructure. The benefits of making the switch from internal combustion engines (ICE) to EVs are growing and well documented, and their popularity has also grown significantly in the past few years. States are hoping that with regional consensus, cities will be cleaner, greener, and quieter with widespread EV adoption. This has proven challenging for American cities, and there have been significant barriers to preventing EVs from gaining a large market share. We have outlined these barriers in a previous article titled, Prioritizing Equity in EV Infrastructure Planning with Data, but they can be summarized as the following:

  • EVs are generally still more expensive than traditional ICEs
  • Lack of charging stations and charging infrastructure
  • Lack of EV knowledge, exposure, & visibility
  • Limited EV financial incentives
  • EV model availability

Addressing these barriers will need effective, comprehensive, and long-term policy and strategic planning for cities to reach electrification and emission targets. Municipalities both small and large will need to look to their states for not only guidance on EV policy, but also as a partner to voice their specific needs to. Adapting state policies to different levels of government – local, regional, and federal will be key for widespread EV adoption and will also be the most challenging.

How can cites be sure they are implementing the most effective EV policies? Here are some popular policy recommendations and case studies that have been effective across different states.

Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate

Some governments leading mass EV adoption have implemented aggressive electrification goals with the intent of adopting a 100% electric share between 2025-2050, with zero emission mandates. Zero emission vehicle (ZEV) regulations have accelerated the rate of EV adoption on a regional scale within states like California, and have had immense success in in achieving lofty goals of reducing greenhouse gas. In the United States, ZEV mandates are issued at the state level, and California has been a state leader ever since their first ZEV mandate in 1990. One of the key features of California’s mandate is its requirements of manufacturers to meet rather strict ZEV percentage credits. The mandate also requires auto manufacturers to produce an increasing number of ZEVs each year beginning in 2026. The mandate also takes measures to ensure that consumers are buying ZEVs that are sustainable and have longevity with enhanced durability and warranty requirements. By 2030, California expects vehicles to maintain at least 80% of electric range for 10 years or 150,000 miles. Although California has some of the stricter EV and ZEV policies in the nation, the direct intention with future-proofing mobility innovation, and building direct relationships with manufacturers and technology providers is a lesson that could be adopted in other states across the country.

Flexible, Long-term EV Financial Incentives

Ensuring that citizens can afford EVs is critical. Tax benefits, incentives, and rebates have been successful ways for states to promote the use and ownership of EVs. 45 states and the District of Columbia all provide some sort of incentive. Increasingly, states are amending their policies to include additional provisions for low income and disadvantaged communities.

Virginia recently passed an EV rebate program that applies to new and used EVs. As EVs begin to take up a larger portion of the market, expanding access to used vehicles also expands EV access to a significant number of Americans. This rebate program allows for a $2,500 rebate at the time of purchase for both buyers and leasers, with an additional $2,000 rebate toward either a new EV, or $500 towards a used EV for low-income customers.

EV-Cross Collaborations

Collaborative EV efforts across state lines will be a critical strategy in transportation electrification, and states have been leading the way in creating integrated policies to ensure a more robust buildout of charging infrastructure across major highways.

The Regional Electric Vehicle Midwest Coalition (REV Midwest) has made bipartisan efforts to involve governors and decision makers from Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to develop a new regional charging infrastructure network. The REV Midwest sets out to accomplish three goals: Accelerate medium and heavy-duty fleet electrification, elevate economic growth and industry leadership, and advance equity and environmental goals. Additionally, increasing the number of charging stations is one of the main goals of REV Midwest, as they hope to boost potential consumers’ confidence and ease the range anxiety that comes with not knowing if charging is available outside of private at-home chargers. This multi-state collaboration leverages increased public and private interest/funding for EV infrastructure and allows states to share ideas and opportunities surrounding EV implementation. More state collaboration can make room for taking bigger risks with EV infrastructure and finding innovative partners to get the job done.

Local partnerships are just as important as multi-state partnerships, and San Francisco has been a leading example in this, creating the Electric Vehicle Working Group. This group aims to identify key policies and partners to aid EV growth within the city. The group is comprised of 15 representatives from city departments and agencies, along with stakeholders from regional and state agencies, as well as industry and non-profit organizations.

These are just some ways cities and states can prioritize equitable widespread electrification. Policies that are both strict enough to reach target greenhouse reduction goals, but also flexible enough to change with the needs of consumers will be important for cities and states to transition to a more sustainable future.


Kendra Hills, Intern | [email protected]

Kendra Hills is an intern at Econsult Solutions supporting ESI’s Center for the Future of Cities. She is currently a Master’s student at the University of Pennsylvania, studying city & regional planning with a concentration in smart cities.

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