New report outlines ways to improve electric vehicle infrastructure in R.I.

A NEW REPORT announced by state agencies on Tuesday outlines ways to improve electric vehicle infrastructure and use in Rhode Island. Pictured is the the Fidelity Investments Inc. parking garage in Smithfield, which includes a charging station for employees. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – Requiring 100% of state electricity to come from renewable sources will help incentivize the electric vehicle market and ensure the state’s fossil fuel-heavy transportation sector truly becomes decarbonized.

This was among the recommendations outlined in a new report announced Tuesday and submitted to the General Assembly, detailing how the state can improve its infrastructure and investments for electric vehicles. The 91-page report was developed by a host of state agencies – the R.I. Department of Transportation, the R.I. Division of Motor Vehicles, the R.I. Office of Energy Resources, the R.I. Department of Environmental Management and the R.I. Department of Health – prompted by legislation passed in the 2021 session directing the state to develop “a plan for a statewide electric vehicle charging station infrastructure in order to make such electric vehicle charging stations more accessible to the public.” 

Given that the transportation sector accounts for one-third of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, the push toward electric vehicles is crucial to helping the state achieve its ambitious decarbonization goals, including hitting zero net emissions by 2050, the report stated. And the windfall of federal aid from the recently approved Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act offers new opportunities to invest in the infrastructure and technology to bolster electric vehicle use, the report stated.

As of December 2021, the Ocean State boasts 235 public charging stations with over 500 individual ports. That’s thanks in part to the $1.4 million in funding though the R.I. Office of Energy Resources doled out since 2017. 

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The number of electric vehicles in use has also more than tripled over the last five years based on state registration data, with more than 4,500 on the road as of December, the report stated.

THE NUMBER of electric vehicles on the road has more than tripled over the last five years. / COURTESY R.I. DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES

However, light-duty electric vehicles such as cars account for a mere 1% of new vehicle registrations, highlighting the need to better understand, incentivize and pay for this growing green vehicle movement. The report outlined a host of priority recommendations, including strengthening the state’s policies for completely decarbonizing its electric supply.

While the Act on Climate passed last year calls for reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the current Renewable Energy Standard to decarbonize electric supplies only calls for 38.5% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2035.

“The General Assembly should consider an amendment to strengthen the Renewable Energy Standard or other legislative mechanism to ensure we fully decarbonize our electric supply,” the report stated.

Other recommendations included bolstering existing state incentive programs for electric vehicles and charging stations to improve access across the state and in more concentrated areas such as multiunit housing; developing a plan to fully electrify all of the R.I. Public Transit Authority buses, which as heavy-duty vehicles are responsible for a greater amount of greenhouse gases; and considering new funding sources to support transportation infrastructure amid projections for declining revenue from state and federal gas taxes.

The report also emphasized the importance of additional data collection, analysis and public reporting, including through a “clean transportation dashboard” that lets community members track metrics on progress toward electrification. 

Some of these priorities are delegated to state agencies, while others are framed as policy proposals for lawmakers to consider in the upcoming session.

“Accelerating our adoption of clean transportation solutions is vital if we are to meet our greenhouse gas emissions reduction mandates under the 2021 Act on Climate,”  State Energy Commissioner Nicholas S. Ucci said in a statement. “This policy guide identifies strategies to increase the adoption of electric vehicles and utilization of charging stations; improve physical access; promote equitable deployment; and ensure continued investment for transportation infrastructure.”

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at

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