Policy Options

Electric Vehicles



NCEL Point of Contact

Ava Gallo
Climate and Energy Program Manager



Price volatility of fossil fuels and a growing emphasis on reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions make electric vehicles (EV) and hybrids an attractive alternative to conventional internal combustion engine vehicles. States have utilized multiple policy mechanisms to spur deployment and adoption of EVs at the commercial scale, capitalizing on benefits to energy security and both environmental and human health. This page gives an overview of Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) and Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Programs, while the following three pages outline policy options for batteries, charging infrastructure, electric school buses, direct sales, electrifying state fleets, multi-family housing charging, incentives, and rural access.

Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Program

California adopted the first Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) regulations in 1990, including three components: 1) tiers of exhaust emission standards for increasingly more stringent categories of low-emission vehicles, 2) a mechanism requiring each auto manufacturer to phase-in a progressively cleaner mix of vehicles from year to year with the option of credit banking and trading, and 3) a requirement that a specified percentage of passenger cars and light-duty trucks be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) with no exhaust or evaporative emissions. The most recent phase of regulation (LEV III) includes gradually stricter requirements for greenhouse gas and particulate emissions from 2015 to 2025. Sixteen states, including the District of Columbia, have adopted California’s LEV regulations.

Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Program

California adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Program in 1990 with a key update in 2012. The program assigns each automaker ZEV credits, which are required to consist of an increasing percentage of their total vehicle sales. The credit requirement is 7%, until it rises to 22% in 2025. Plug-in hybrid vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are eligible under this program; however, different types of vehicles are worth varied amounts of credits. Fourteen states, including the District of Columbia, have adopted California’s ZEV regulations.

States in orange have adopted California’s LEV regulations. States in blue have adopted California’s LEV and ZEV regulations.

Electric Vehicles Legislation

Download the full resource for electric vehicle policy options related to:

  • Batteries
  • Charging Infrastructure
  • Direct Sales
  • Electric School Buses
  • Electrifying State Fleets
  • Multi-Family Housing Charging
  • Incentives
  • Rural Access


NCEL Resources


Emission Reduction Targets

December 1, 2021

Online Resources

Roadmap for Electric Transportation - Regulatory Assistance Project

RAP has a roadmap for electrifying transportation with legislative and policy guides.

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Electric Vehicle State Policy Resources - Georgetown Climate Center

The Georgetown Climate Center maintains state policy resources on electric vehicles.

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U.S. State Clean Vehicle Policies and Incentives - Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has a map for U.S. State Clean Vehicle Policies and Incentives tracking.

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AchiEVe - Sierra Club

AchiEVe: Model Policies to Accelerate Electric Vehicle Adoption

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State and Local Policy Database - ACEEE

ACEEE has a State Policy Tracker for State Fleet Electrification

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State Plug-in Adoption Resource Kit - Electrification Coalition

The Electrification Coalition has a State Plug-In Adoption Resource Kit for fleet managers and other state government officials.

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