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Driving R.I. toward electrification: A look inside the state’s electric vehicle projects

DRIVE EV has administered over 1,400 rebates to fund Rhode Island EV purchases

This article is part of an Earth Month series exploring environmental issues, climate initiatives and community stakeholders throughout Providence and Rhode Island.

In the past two years, the Driving Rhode Island to Vehicle Electrification project, has granted over $3 million in rebates to individuals and businesses who purchase electric vehicles. 

Launched in July 2022, DRIVE EV is part of a wider effort to phase out the sale of all gas-powered vehicles by 2035, according to a May 2023 press release communicated by Gov. Dan McKee. 

The project is funded and administered jointly with the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources and the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank. The two agencies first partnered in 2015 on the Efficient Buildings Fund to expand renewable energy production in the state, according to Robert Beadle, OER’s chief public affairs officer. DRIVE EV builds on this collaboration, he wrote in an email to The Herald.  


Since transportation accounts for nearly 40% of R.I. emissions, increasing EV use in the state is critical to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, as mandated by the 2021 Act on Climate, Beadle explained. 

“As of December 2023, Rhode Island has seen a 55.27% increase in registered zero-emission vehicles compared to 2022,” Beadle wrote. He attributed some of this increase to the DRIVE EV program. 

DRIVE EV offers up to $1,500 in rebates for new electric vehicle purchases, and $1,000 for purchases of used EVs. According to the program’s website, 1,344 of the 1,474 rebates administered since the initiative’s launch have gone to individual vehicle owners.

Kurt Teichert, a senior lecturer in environment and society, qualified for a rebate after purchasing a used 2020 Kia Niro last fall, despite purchasing the vehicle in Massachusetts. Due to Rhode Island’s small size, EVs purchased at eligible Massachusetts dealerships can also qualify for a Rhode Island rebate, Teichert explained. 

The knowledge of the program contributed to his decision “of going totally EV,” he said. 

DRIVE+, a DRIVE EV program, targets low-income EV purchasers and offers up to $1,500 in additional funding to residents who meet income-eligibility requirements. 

Teichert highlighted the importance of ensuring that financial incentives target “someone on the margin” and not just “wealthy car buyers … (who) were going to buy (EVs) anyhow.”

The last program, FLEET, incentivizes “small businesses, nonprofits and public sector entities” to switch to EV vehicles via rebates for bulk purchases, according to Beadle. 

At a time when many individuals and firms are beginning to see the benefits of EVs, FLEET and other rebate programs are designed to cover the cost differential between EVs and cheaper, conventional vehicles, Teichert explained. 

Among those entities is Brown. The University committed in 2022 to exclusively purchasing electric fleet vehicles. 


Following the purchase of two Ford E-Transit vehicles, several representatives of the University’s Facilities Management team noted that the EVs were quieter, more comfortable and easier to maintain, according to a University press release.

Teichert emphasized that electric vehicles are often more technologically advanced than their internal-combustion counterparts. 

“A lot of people think of EVs in terms of compromises, but it’s just a superior vehicle to drive,” he said. “Because of the age of the materials, they’re much more likely to have lane-sensing, adaptive cruise control and a one-foot driving experience.” 

But Teichert highlighted that the “top priority” when switching to EV, and of programs live DRIVE EV, is to reduce emissions. 

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“When it comes to emissions, the big nut to crack is transportation,” he explained. “The only way we’re going to decarbonize transportation is through electrification.”

Irene Zhao

Irene is a freshman from the Washington, D.C. area concentrating in Applied Math and International and Public Affairs. In her free time, she enjoys trying fun new snacks and exploring Providence's parks and shops.


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