Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 10/2012

Policy Priorities for Advancing the U.S. Electric Vehicle Market

Deborah Gordon, Daniel Sperling, David Livingston

September 2012

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


The U.S. electric-vehicle industry has posted impressive growth over the last decade, with hundreds of companies now advancing the plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) market. But there is still much to do to further the transition to electric-drive vehicles. It will take a sophisticated set of policy tools and local action to spur manufacturers, utilities, localities, and states to fully commercialize PEVs.

Key Themes: • With the price, complexity, and carbon footprint of oil increasing and new climate regulations facilitating the shift to cleaner power, there has arguably never been a more pressing time for advancing vehicle electrification. • Light-duty PEVs used for passenger travel, including plug-in hybrid and full battery electric vehicles, have the potential to make the greatest impact on the market and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution. • Federal and state regulators are adopting emissions and fuel economy standards, but, while necessary, those may not be enough to transform the vehicle market. • States and localities, which have generally advanced PEV commercialization more directly and effectively than has Washington, will likely be the source of the most durable solutions.