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Electric vehicle use bills are introduced

State government may take steps to encourage electric vehicle purchases in Pennsylvania.

Rep. MaryLouise Isaacson, D-Philadelphia, has introduced two pieces of legislation in the state House of Representatives. House Bill 524 was referred recently to the House Finance Committee. It would amend the Tax Reform Code of 1971 to create a tax exemption for any zero-emission vehicle.

House Bill 525 would create a 10% discount on electronic toll collection on the state Thruway if their vehicle averages at least 45 miles a gallon and produces 90% fewer emissions than the average gasoline-powered vehicle.

Both would have to be certified by manufacturer specifications.

“The environment plays an important role in the overall health of all living beings,” Isaacson wrote in her legislative memorandum. “As our environment is deteriorating at an accelerated rate, there are certain steps we can take to mitigate the damage. Of those steps, one prevalent and achievable goal is the use of green driving. Green driving is the individual act of driving in such a way as to have a minimal impact on the environment. While drivers may take practical steps, such as carpooling, accelerating gradually, and anticipating stops in order to drive green, other methods, such as driving zero emission vehicles, will have a significantly greater impact on the environment. Zero emission vehicles are electric or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles that have zero harmful tailpipe emissions and are 98 percent cleaner than the average new model-year vehicle.”

Pennsylvania has programs available to governments for charging stations and participates in federal programs, but has no state programs to encourage people to drive or purchase electric vehicles.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has has begun drafting a regulation that would require automakers to offer electric cars for sale in Pennsylvania as a way to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants that cause lung problems. At least 12 states already have a requirement for the zero-emission electric vehicles, including neighbors Maryland, New Jersey and New York.

Drafting a regulation and shepherding it through the approval process often takes a year or more.

The rule would help ensure that automakers offer new zero emissions electric vehicle models for sale in Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection said. Right now, opportunities to test drive and buy electric vehicles in Pennsylvania are limited, it said.

The department was unable to say what sort of percentage requirement it will propose, since the regulation hasn’t been drafted yet. Citing data from Atlas EV Hub, the department said electric vehicles were 1.15% of Pennsylvania light-duty vehicle sales in the third quarter of 2020, the most recent data available.

It would not impose specific percentages of electric vehicles at each car dealership, but rather would apply to auto manufacturers and all vehicles delivered for sale in Pennsylvania, the department said.

Programs in other states do not typically apply to smaller manufacturers and medium-sized and larger manufacturers can comply with the requirement through a credit system, in which they earn credits based on the kind of vehicles they deliver.

David Masur, executive director of the Philadelphia-based environmental advocacy group PennEnvironment, said the announcement is important.

“This is good for our planet, good for public health and it’ll be good for consumers because Pennsylvania will get ahead of where the market is naturally heading anyway,” Masur said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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