November 18th, 2020 by Steve Hanley
ZETA — the newly formed Zero Emissions Transportation Association — is a lobbying group that will advocate for “national policies that will enable 100% electric vehicle sales throughout the light-, medium-, and heavy-duty sectors by 2030,” according to a report by Axios. Of the 28 corporations who are members of ZETA, there are automakers such as Tesla, Rivian, and Lordstown Motors; utility companies such as Southern Company, Duke Energy, Con Edison, and PG&E; as well as Uber and Piedmont Lithium. Sharp eyed readers will notice that all of the current mainstream automakers are absent from the group’s membership list.
On ZETA’s website, it describes its mission as follows:
Today, 28 businesses — which employ hundreds of thousands of workers across all 50 states — launched the Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA), a new organization advocating for national policies that will enable 100% electric vehicle sales throughout the light-, medium-, and heavy-duty sectors by 2030.
ZETA is the first industry coalition of its kind calling for an accelerated transition to electric vehicles (EVs), which will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, secure American global EV manufacturing leadership, dramatically improve public health and significantly reduce carbon pollution.
“For the first time in a generation, transportation is the leading emitter of U.S. carbon emissions. By embracing EVs, federal policymakers can help drive innovation, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and improve air quality and public health,” said Joe Britton, Executive Director of ZETA. “ZETA’s formation recognizes a pivotal moment for national leadership and reflects the will of the growing clean transportation sector.”
“The next decade will be critical in implementing federal policies that accelerate the transition to zero emissions vehicles and help address these problems head-on. The clean vehicle sector already boasts hundreds of thousands of jobs but, if we encourage its growth, the United States can decisively win the global race to develop a new clean transportation economy and employ hundreds of thousands of Americans right here at home.”
ZETA has set forth 5 policy goals, all of which are intended to culminate in a switchover to all electric vehicle sales by 2030 — a highly ambitious target. California and the UK, among others, have proposed banning the sale of gasoline and diesel powered vehicles by 2035 or earlier, but ZETA prefers to use friendly persuasion and policy incentives to accomplish its mission rather than mandates.
The first thing ZETA would like to see is a restructuring of the current federal EV tax credit. Tesla and General Motors have exceeded the 200,000 vehicle limit, which means their customers no longer qualify for any benefits under that program. The tax credit has always been a bit clunky. For one thing, many Americans don’t owe Uncle Sam $7,500 in federal taxes at the end of the year, so they never got the full benefit of the tax credit.
The rules also prohibit carrying over any unused tax credit to subsequent tax years. So if a purchaser buys a qualifying electric car today but only pays $2,000 in federal income tax, the credit is effectively limited to $2,000. Not only that, if someone buys a qualifying EV in January, they have to wait until April 15 of the following year to claim their tax credit.
The existing program has a built in bias in favor of wealthier Americans, people who don’t really need taxpayer assistance to purchase a new automobile or truck. From a policy perspective, the country would be better off if EVs were more widely available to low income people who drive a rusted out Civic with a bazillion miles on it back and forth to work. Changing the incentive to a point of sale program where the money is available immediately to help lower the initial purchase price of an EV would be far more efficient. Potentially, the rebate could be structured to reward low income buyers rather than millionaires, making the process more responsive to the needs of those who need assistance the most.
Second, ZETA will advocate for stronger vehicle emissions standards, a direct challenge to the policies of the outgoing administration. “Emission targets are a key piece of protecting public health and sending the correct market signals to support and accelerate the transition to zero emission transportation,” the group says.
Third, ZETA will push for policies and programs that promote expanding the EV charging infrastructure. Not surprisingly, ChargePoint and EVGo are charter members of the new group.
Fourth, the group will support policies that support the growth of the US manufacturing sector by encouraging Made In America programs. “Federal policies must encourage job creation and economic activity across the entire EV supply chain and life cycle, from critical materials to vehicles.”
Fifth, “Federal support should invest in research and development, provide an aligned vision for electrification, and ensure local leaders are empowered with the expertise and resources to support full vehicle electrification.” the group says. The ZETA Education Fund, an affiliated group focused on educating the public on the environmental and social benefits and opportunities associated with broad EV adoption, is also being launched at the same time as ZETA.
The Verge points out that the goals set forth by ZETA strongly match those of the president-elect, Joe Biden, who has said emphatically that rather than tweeting about preserving American jobs, he intends to actually do something about bolstering the US economy. Among other things, Biden has set a goal of create 1 million new jobs in the auto sector. He says his policies will “position America to be the global leader in the manufacture of electric vehicles and their input materials and parts.”
Biden says he will push for the federal government — the largest single purchaser of new vehicles in the world — to stop buying gasoline and diesel powered vehicles and start buying electric ones made in America instead. Part of that initiative includes replacing the US fleet of gas and diesel powered school buses with battery electric models. And he supports a plan put forth by Senate Democrats to create a so-called cash-for-clunkers program to encourage people to trade in their old gasmobiles so every vehicle on the road by 2040 spews no pollutants into the air while in operation.
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