Transportation is the largest source of emissions in the Northeast and traditionally the most difficult emissions sector to address, but rapidly evolving technology offers deep reduction potential. Electric vehicles (EVs) and innovations in alternative mobility options can help improve transportation efficiency and reduce emissions.
Electrifying cars and light trucks will reduce emissions significantly by 2030. Today, driving an EV emits less than half of the CO2 of a conventional vehicle. EVs will be responsible for even fewer emissions as their technology improves and more electricity is generated by renewables.1 Already, EVs are a commercially available technology that can save consumers money, even when gas prices are low.
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York have already committed to put nearly 1.4 million zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025. These ZEV commitments can be expanded to include all states in the region and strengthened through ambitious yet achievable targets for 2030: 17% of cars and light trucks and 2.5% of medium-duty trucks electrified.
California has demonstrated that rapid deployment of EVs is possible. In 2016, 3.6% of car sales in California were EVs.
To reach these levels, states will need to offer incentives for EV purchases and develop smarter electric rates to make EVs even cheaper to drive. Pricing emissions from transportation will further accelerate EV adoption while raising funds for rebates, charging stations, transit, and other transportation investments.
Increasing Mobility Options
Public transit, walking, biking, carpooling, and ride-hailing services can reduce the number of miles a car is driven, or vehicle miles traveled (VMT). From rural to urban areas, increasing access to these services and improving zoning regulations to support them can reduce emissions.
To meet 2030 emissions targets, the region can slow VMT growth from 8% under current policies to 3%, reducing annual VMT 5% over a 15-year period. To put this in perspective, VMT in the Northeast dropped 5% in the period from 2007 to 2011.2
States can reach this target in a number of ways. Transit programs can expand in urbanized states with below average numbers of public transportation commuters, like Connecticut and Rhode Island. Rural areas can expand bus and on-demand ride services to connect residents to the places they need to go. States across the region can improve zoning regulations to help create more walkable communities, improve connectedness, and preserve open space.