Best Electric Car Policies – 10 U.S. ZEV States Ranked


The Electrification Coalition ranks current ZEV states by their policies for electric vehicle (EV) adoption.

California is the only state that is able to issue stricter emission standards than those set by the federal government. However, the remaining 49 states have the choice of following either the California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards or the federal standards. Currently, thirteen states have adopted the standards set by California.

For those states that follow the CARB standards, they may also choose to adopt the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. This mandate requires that automakers earn ZEV credits to offset vehicle sales. 

Simply by adopting a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, these states are doing more than most. However for electric vehicles to overtake the combustion engine, a broad number of issues must be addressed by government and industry. Many buyers know very little about electric vehicles at all, so having education and outreach programs goes a long way towards spreading awareness. Before they consider buying, consumers need to see the financial benefit on top of the environmental one. Once they’re ready to pull the trigger on an EV, robust charging infrastructure provides buyers with peace of mind, even if they rarely utilize it.

How states and their policy approaches were ranked

The Electrification Coalition is an EV-focused nonprofit intent on improving policies for and availability of electric vehicles. The group has analyzed public initiatives and sales success to measure the most effective polices set by state governments to support EV adoption.

According to their data, 457,486 of the approximately 765,000 plug-ins sold in the U.S. through 2017 went to states that had adopted ZEV mandates. They have evaluated each state based upon:

  • State-level incentives to consumers
  • Availability and support of public recharging/refueling infrastructure
  • Public outreach and education campaigns

States are placed in 3 tiers based on the above policies:

  • Tier 3 states are states that offer stronger policies than most non-ZEV states. But they might offer few financial incentives, and lack infrastructure or outreach programs.
  • Tier 2 states generally have respectable scores in some categories but might be lacking in one category.
  • Tier 1 states are doing their part to get drivers on board with electric vehicles. They offer strong purchase incentives on vehicles and infrastructure. EV education and outreach programs provided are also superior to most other states.

ZEV Sales percentages

The report of course points to the accomplishments of all 10 states pushing for EV adoption. According to their data, 457,486 of the approximately 765,000 plug-ins sold in the U.S. through 2017 went to states that had adopted ZEV mandates. But there are always improvements that can be made. So here are the rankings of the 10 ZEV states, the Tiers they are placed in, and some improvements that they can make in the future:

10) Maine – Tier 3

Offers no financial incentives for consumers to purchase electric vehicles or charging stations. It also offers few programs for outreach or EV education.

9) Oregon – Tier 3

Prior to 2018, Oregon had no incentive for plug-in purchases. By adopting a very generous incentive that begins this year, the state should rank higher in the future. The state has respectable charging infrastructure and an incentive for residential charging installations.

8) Rhode Island – Tier 3

The state’s electric vehicle rebate incentive’s funds have been exhausted and currently have not been replenished. The state has fair scores on infrastructure and outreach programs.

7) Vermont – Tier 3

While many automakers and utility companies in Vermont work with the government to offer incentives for the purchase of EVs, the state itself does not. Vermont is also lacking in charging infrastructure. However, the percentage of EV sales is quite impressive compared to other states.

6) New Jersey – Tier 2

The only state to offer tax exemption on vehicle purchases. However, charging infrastructure is lacking in the state.

5) New York – Tier 2

New York has respectable scores in most categories. The state has decent outreach and education programs. However, the state’s EV incentive is lower than many other CARB states and even non-ZEV states such as Texas and Colorado. Increasing the rebate could provide a boost to the state’s sales performance.

4) Massachusetts – Tier 2

The best performing tier 2 state, Massachusetts has a strong EV purchase incentive and good public outreach and education. However, infrastructure could use improvement.

3) Connecticut – Tier 1

Scores near the top in all categories – Incentives, education and infrastructure.

2) Maryland – Tier 1

Places near the top due to generous financial incentives on vehicle purchases. The state also provides incentives for workplace charging installations.

1) California – Tier 1

Could there be anyone else at the top of this list? California has strong ZEV purchase incentives and incentives for charging stations or hydrogen fueling stations. The state allows HOV/HOT lane access for ZEVs.  Sales account for nearly 50% of all EV sales between 2011 and 2017. Last year, California had over 5% ZEV market share.

If you’d like more information on The Electric Coalitions methodologies and rankings, check out the link to the full report down below.

ZEV sales percentage by state

Source: Electrification Coalition, ZEV Scorecard Full Report

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8 Comments on "Best Electric Car Policies – 10 U.S. ZEV States Ranked"

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Am I reading this correctly that Oregon has the highest percentage of plugin car sales at 2.36%?

Trying to do my part to educate people I come in contact with. Most conservative friends seem out right hostile to electric cars and Tesla in particular. But even left leaning friends are heavily influenced by the negative FUD, thinking the negative environmental impact (like what happens to batteries, or most electricity comes from coal) out weighs the positive. Just ordered a Bolt to put my money where my mouth is. Not quite the perfect car for me but seems like the best way to influence and educate those around me.

Nope nice catch it looks like their text was correct in the PDF but not their graph. But seems like they have caught it and swapped graphs since I wrote the article. This version is now added to the article with Cali at 5.02%.

Thanks! And congrats on the Bolt! When do you expect it to arrive? 😀

The irony is that most of these so called conservative environmentalists don’t even care much about environmental protection anyway, at least not before business protection so it really ticks me when they bring these false and naive arguments to justify their ignorance.

Pennsylvania, almost a red state, giving up future jobs, so that there won’t be any for unemployed coal miners. /smart.

where’s colorado on this list??

CO is not a zev state…yet. They should be though.

There should be far more states following the ca zev trail like co, wa, ut, NV, az, nm, fl, georgia, etc.
Most of these states either have some form of ev incenrives already, have to import most if not all their gasoline or are great states for renewables like solar or wind which would encourage using electricity more as a fuel instead of dirty, harmful fossil fuels.
Is there some group trying to slowly but surely get more states to zev mandates like other states have started adopting medicinal or legal recreational marijuana? This seems like a no brainer thing to do that could really bring more ev awareness and sales.

NM is a CARB state, but not part of the ZEV program. AZ used to be part of the ZEV program, but got out from under the “big government regulations” in 2010. WA keeps making all kinds of noise about standing up to climate change, but are apparently unwilling to put their money where their mouth is. FL, GA, UT, and NV are still too dominated by Republicans at the state level to sign onto the ZEV program, though I could see that potentially changing at least in NV by 2020. Ditto for CO, though it’s just their Senate in the way at the moment. VA should also look toward joining the club, but their Assembly probably wouldn’t quite go for it yet.

Yes, as Sustainable2020 says, CO is not a ZEV state. There are several ZEV and CARB states that provide little to no incentives. They really could be doing more.

Especially since there are several non-CARB states that have decently high sales and available incentives. Sometimes even better incentives. Colorado is one of those with high sales but no mandate.