Eight states are banding together in a new electric vehicle alliance, but so far their commitment to EVs varies widely. Of course, California gets star billing for its $2,500 rebates, its zero emission mandates, its HOV lane access, and its public-awareness campaigns.

The other states in the compact, all on the East Coast, follow California emission rules, but their dedication to plug-in cars is spotty. The states: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. If press releases and governor's proclamations count, they're very EV-friendly, but actual commitments are few. Connecticut and Massachusetts, for instance, provide nothing to consumers who want to buy a car, though both have charging station incentives. Connecticut just announced funding for 56 public charging stations at 42 locations, but it also let state income-tax relief expire. Maryland does have a $1,000 tax credit for EV customers, and a credit covering up to 20 percent of the cost of a charging station.

New York is trying to figure out how to use $2 million in funding for its ChargeNY program, and is generous with help for businesses that want to try electric trucks. Those are state officials opening a new charging station in Williamsport below.

New York state officials do a ribbon cutting for a EV charging station

But probably the runner-up to California in enthusiasm is Oregon. What other state has a chief EV officer, in office since April? Ashley Horvat (shown below) holds that title. She’s wildly enthusiastic about EVs, pointing to the state’s hosting of “the first fast charger at a ski area.”

Her goal, says Horvat, “is to get EVs into communities that don’t see many EVs.” And that’s why Travel Oregon is working with Nissan and Enterprise Rent-a-Car on a program that encourages visitors to take out-of-the-way vacations in the state. “Our job is to make sure the stations are there, and reliable,” Horvat said.

Oregon has 3,500 electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, on its roads today, and they’re almost 1 percent of all new vehicles sold (in California, it’s 1.2 percent). “We have a much smaller population than California, but we’re right behind it in terms of percentage of EV owners,” Horvat notes helpfully. The state had a $1,500 tax incentive for buying cars, but it went away in recent budget debates, a fate that California — which recently strengthened its incentives — has avoided.

Businesses installing electric vehicle chargers are still eligible for 35 percent state tax credits in Oregon, and businesses buying two or more alternative fuel vehicles can get credits for the same 35 percent of the cost, beginning Jan. 1 of next year. Public agencies buying electric vehicles also get assistance.

plug in hybrid car at a Electric Avenue charging station

Oregon has fast chargers deployed all along Interstate-5 (34 now, 43 by next year) as part of the West Coast Electric Highway, and is seeing a lot of usage. Portland (home to a real EV cluster) has the Electric Avenue charging center (above), and area dealers sell more plug-in Leafs than anything else in the Nissan line.

Oregon is in a strong second place to California when it comes to electric car sales. No other state reaches penetration of even four tenths of a percent. In descending order after that, it’s Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Maine and Rhode Island.

But the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is perhaps being disingenuous when it points out the weak sales in most Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) states. The fact is, only a few cars, such as the Smart Electric Drive, the Leaf, Chevy Volt, Honda Fit EV and Tesla Model S are widely available across ZEV-land. The Chevrolet Spark EV, for instance, is for sale only in California and Oregon, and the Fiat 500e is California only.

Oregon’s below-the-radar EV activism is encouraging. Other states should follow its lead. What’s wrong, for instance, with agitating to get carmakers offer their cars in your state?

Here's a video from Electric Avenue in Portland:

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