Or so we’re told. All three may be – and probably will be -- true, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be true at the same time. For instance, when will we be ready for autonomous transportation? What business model will work for shared personal vehicles?

Electrified vehicles are different. They’re here today, available at dealers across the nation. What we don’t know is where they’ll be built, and by whom, in the future. And there is an intense competition right now to see who will grab market leadership and which country gets the effective ability to set standards for the electric vehicle industry.

This week a bipartisan group of Senators and members of Congress, led by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI), introduced legislation, the Driving America Forward Act, to extend and expand consumer credits and incentives for purchasing zero emission vehicles (both plug-in and fuel cell electrics). Their efforts are important in making sure that America remains in a leadership position in the competition.

Cumulative sales of new plug-in and fuel cell electric vehicles amount to just two percent of all vehicle sales, and hybrid sales hover at two percent as well. The market is still in its infancy, and these credits and incentives are needed to build a sustainable market and infrastructure that can stand on its own in the future.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need special support for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). But the fact is that we support through the tax and regulatory systems many activities and policy goals, and there are several good policy reasons for supporting the sale of ZEVs. And, if there is a vibrant market for purchasing these vehicles in the U.S., there will be a strong incentive to build them here too.

  • U.S. public policy goals: ZEVs achieve measurable and substantial emissions benefits, and consume fewer natural resources.
  • The states: Nine states, led by California, require the sale of ZEVs, but most of them are falling short of their targets.
  • The private sector: More demand for ZEVs means more investment in battery and vehicle development, more production, more jobs, and more export opportunities.
  • The world: Governments across the globe are adopting policies to encourage (if not require) electrification, and to nurture their own national champions as they develop them.

We know from experience that credits and incentives work. Ultimately, we want a sustainable mass market for all ZEVs – one in which they are affordable for everyone, and available everywhere. We aren’t there yet, so these temporary measures are a critical bridge to the future. Senators Alexander and Stabenow, and Congressman Kildee are helping us get there. They deserve credit, and their legislation deserves support.