Transportation Committee advances bill that would expand electric car perks

The proposal would create a series of benefits for owners and operators of electric vehicles.
The proposal would create a series of benefits for owners and operators of electric vehicles.
Rich Pedroncelli / AP

There are several perks that owners and operators of electric vehicles currently enjoy. This includes driving an eco-friendly vehicle, a $2,500 rebate, and, in some cases, designated parking spots.

Last week, lawmakers on the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation advanced a bill that could expand the perks of being an electric vehicle owner.

If passed, the bill known would allow electric car owners and operators access to high occupancy vehicle lanes, increase access to charging stations throughout the state, and ensure that certain charging station information, including compatibility and charging level, is posted online.

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The bill, which is also known as “An Act Promoting Electric Vehicle Adoption,” would also require the Department of Energy Resources to develop and promote a common standard as part of the state building code for electric vehicle charging stations.

Rep. Frank Smizik, a Brookline Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, says the measure is necessary to curtail carbon emissions in the state.

“Electric Vehicles have made enormous technological advancements over the past decade, and can now compete economically and functionally with traditional motor vehicles,” said Smizik. “Many in the legislature, including myself, recognize this and believe we can consider EVs in our emissions reductions strategy.”

In a statement to Boston.com, Rep. Smizik said the transportation sector accounts for almost 40 percent of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions, with personal vehicle use accounting for the bulk of this output.

“With decreased gas prices, a 10 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled over the last 20 years, and a carpool rate below the national average, we must address personal vehicle use directly as part of our transportation emissions reduction strategy,” said Rep. Smizik.

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In addition to allowing electric vehicle operators access to the state’s HOV lanes, the bill would also allow municipalities the power to create EV-designated parking spaces and fine violators between $15 and $50 and tow their vehicles.

Rep. Smizik points out that the current version of the bill would only extend these benefits to battery electric vehicles, not to other types of alternative fuel vehicles like plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. But he said he and other lawmakers and advocates are working to determine which types of vehicles “are most appropriate for this benefit.”

In 2014, Massachusetts entered into an agreement with seven other states to get 3.3 million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2025. Massachusetts’s share is 300,000 vehicles and the state is currently a long way off from hitting that figure. But Smizik believes the proposed legislation can help the state reach its goal by expanding charging infrastructure for EVs and offering “no-cost incentives” like HOV lane access and designated parking spaces.

“Massachusetts’ 2025 ZEV goal is an ambitious target which can be met with a concerted effort of the state and industry,” said Smizik.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story referred the $2,500 rebate as a tax credit. A rebate is issued at the time of the vehicle’s purchase as opposed to a tax credit that is issued when filing state taxes.