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Electric Vehicle Regulations and Laws: A Primer for Decision Makers

An overview of EV-related policies and who needs to comply.

It can be difficult to find easy-to-understand resources regarding the many electric vehicle (EV) policies and regulations. To save decision makers time, we’ve compiled a series of factsheets that clearly and thoroughly outline the regulations that exist, their goals, who must comply, and what is required for compliance.

Our goal in compiling these resources is to help stakeholders maximize the environmental and economic benefits of electrification, plan for current and future regulations, understand when and how regulations will impact their businesses, guide purchasing decisions, and more.

The regulations listed below are powerful signals that the shift to transportation electrification is underway. These policies will improve air quality and health outcomes while at the same time significantly reducing transportation-related emissions, helping us avoid the disastrous effects of a 1.5°C or higher increase in global temperature. Given that the transportation sector is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States, these policies and others like them will significantly decrease emissions and their associated harms.

These factsheets cover state regulations and relevant federal laws and rules. While the state regulations listed below are all from California, they are beginning to be adopted nationwide. Policymakers in other states can use the information in this article to inform the development of their own policies.

An article concerning the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently proposed tailpipe emissions will soon be added to this list. Stay tuned!

State Regulations

Below you’ll find brief descriptions of state regulations first promulgated in California and now adopted in several states throughout the country; links to external resources are included.

Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II)

The Advanced Clean Cars II (ACC II) regulation builds on the Advanced Clean Cars (ACC) rule passed in 2012. ACC II decreases emissions by increasing EV sales via two programs: the Zero-Emission Vehicle program and the Low-Emission Vehicle program.

Who must comply: Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) selling more than 4,500 light- and medium-duty (MD) vehicles annually. Small-volume OEMs that sell fewer than 4,500 light- and MD vehicles annually in California are exempt until 2035, when the state’s 100 percent ZEV mandate comes into effect.

Advanced Clean Truck (ACT)

To reduce emissions, ACT requires original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of medium-duty and heavy-duty (HD) vehicles to sell zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) or near-zero-emissions vehicles (NZEVs) such as plug-in electric hybrids as an increasing percentage of their annual sales from 2024 to 2035. The regulation uses a cap-and-trade system, capping the number of fossil fuel vehicles sold by stipulating annual sales percentage requirements. The rule allows manufacturers to comply with the regulation by generating compliance credits through the sale of ZEVs or NZEVs or through the trading of compliance credits.

Who must comply: OEMs selling more than 500 vehicles per year must report the number of vehicles they sell within the state every year. OEMs selling 500 or fewer HD trucks are exempt; they do not accrue deficits and are not required to sell ZEVs or NZEVs. They may bank or trade ZEV and NZEV credits and can voluntarily report these credits.

Advanced Clean Fleet (ACF)

ACF is designed to complement the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule and requires fleets to adopt an increasing percentage of zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) such as battery electric, long-range plug-in electric hybrids, and hydrogen fuel cell MDHD trucks. Compliance requirements differ based on truck type and use.

Who must comply: Fleets with more than 50 trucks or belonging to private companies that make more than $50 million in annual revenue; drayage truck fleets with trucks that operate at California ports or intermodal rail yards; and public fleets owned by state and local government agencies that own, lease, or operate medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Clean Miles Standard (CMS)

CMS is a structured framework that ridehailing companies can use to plan their EV adoption strategies. It will be instrumental in supporting the EV ecosystem by providing financial support to drivers earning low to middle incomes, sending firm demand signals to build out the required EV charging infrastructure, and encouraging partnerships between transportation network companies (TNCs) and EV charging providers to facilitate adoption. CMS requires that ridehailing service providers adopt zero-emissions vehicles to reduce emissions in California. It stipulates that by 2030 Emissions from passenger miles traveled must be 0 and that 90 percent of all vehicle miles traveled (VMT) must be powered by EVs.

Who must comply: TNCs and autonomous vehicle providers that offer passenger ridehailing services and have more than 5 million VMTs per year. TNCs with fewer than 5 million VMTs are exempt and do not have to comply with emissions and electric VMT targets. Trips that use wheelchair-accessible vehicles will not be included in fleet emissions calculations.

Federal Legislation and Regulations

Below you’ll find brief descriptions of federal legislation and regulations as well as links to external resources.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)

The passage of the IRA in 2022 signaled a turning point in EV adoption by providing incentives for passenger and commercial vehicles, domestic battery production, and charging infrastructure development. In RMI’s report How Policy Actions Can Spur EV Adoption in the United States, stakeholders can learn what they can do to realize the IRA’s full potential. The report provides the analysis they need to make data-informed decisions and details the challenges facing IRA implementation as well as ways forward.

Who must comply: The IRA is not a regulation, but an incentive, so no one needs to comply. The IRA provides incentives for the procurement of new and used EVs. Qualifying individuals and commercial entities can use tax credits when purchasing an eligible EV through the IRA.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Light- and Medium-Duty Proposed Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later (proposed)

This proposed regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would reduce passenger car, light truck, and MD vehicle emissions of CO2, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. Between 2027 and 2055, the proposed standards would cumulatively reduce vehicle emissions by 8,000 billion metric tons of CO2. In 2055, the proposal would reduce harmful air pollutants, including approximately 9,800 tons of particulate matter, 44,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 200,000 tons of volatile organic compounds, compared to 2055 levels without the proposal.

The proposed light-duty vehicle standards are projected to result in an industry-wide average target for the light-duty fleet of 82 grams/mile of CO2 in model year (MY) 2032, representing a 51 percent reduction in projected fleet average greenhouse gas emissions target levels from the existing MY 2026 standards. When fully phased in, the MD vehicle standards are projected to result in an average target of 275 grams/mile of CO2 by MY 2032, representing a reduction of 44 percent when compared to the current MY 2026 standards.

Who must comply: Light-duty and medium-duty vehicle manufacturers.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Phase 3 (proposed)

These proposed standards are more stringent and are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from HD vehicles beginning in MY 2027. According to the EPA’s website,

“The new standards would be applicable to HD vocational vehicles (such as delivery trucks, refuse haulers, public utility trucks, transit, shuttle, school buses, etc.) and tractors (such as day cabs and sleeper cabs on tractor-trailer trucks). Specifically, EPA is proposing stronger CO2 standards for MY 2027 HD vehicles that go beyond the current standards that apply under the HD Phase 2 Greenhouse Gas program. The EPA is also proposing an additional set of CO2 standards for HD vehicles that would begin to apply in MY 2028, with progressively lower standards each model year through 2032. This proposed ‘Phase 3’ greenhouse gas program maintains the flexible structure created in EPA’s Phase 2 greenhouse gas program, which is designed to reflect the diverse nature of the heavy-duty industry.”

Who must comply: Manufacturers of HD vocational vehicles (such as delivery trucks, refuse haulers, public utility trucks, transit, shuttle, school buses, etc.) and tractors (such as day cabs and sleeper cabs on tractor-trailer trucks).

Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS)

The Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) is a rule designed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution from transportation using a market-based mechanism that caps the carbon intensity (CI) of fuels.

Who must comply: For fossil fuels used in transportation, the regulated parties are typically the producers in California or importers of fossil fuels to California. In the case of fossil natural gas (FNG), the regulated party is the entity that owns the fuel facility before the fuel is dispensed or the entity that owns the fueling equipment. For biofuels, the producers or importers of the biofuel can claim LCFS credits. For electricity, the electric distribution utilities (EDUs) can opt in to claim LCFS credits for residential and non-residential EV charging and are subject to specific rules regarding the use of LCFS revenue. For public charging, the EV service provider (EVSP) or site host can opt in to claim credits in place of the EDUs. Fleet operators and business owners can also opt in to claim credits for private access charging for fleets and workplaces respectively.