Rhode Island Laws and Incentives
Listed below are the summaries of all current Rhode Island laws, incentives, regulations, funding opportunities, and other initiatives related to alternative fuels and vehicles, advanced technologies, or air quality. You can go directly to summaries of:
Rhode Island's National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Planning
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) NEVI Formula Program requires the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to submit an annual EV Infrastructure Deployment Plan (Plan) to the DOT and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Joint Office of Energy and Transportation (Joint Office) beginning August 1, 2022, describing how the state intends to distribute NEVI funds. The submitted plan must be established according to NEVI guidance.
For more information about Rhode Island’s NEVI planning process, see the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources NEVI Plan website. To review Rhode Island’s NEVI plan, see the Joint Office State Plans for EV Charging website.
Clean Diesel Grant
The Rhode Island Clean Diesel Fund provides fleet operators, businesses, local and state government entities, schools districts, and other qualifying entities with reimbursement grants to reduce emissions from medium- and heavy-duty diesel vehicles. Eligible projects include on-road, non-road, and marine vehicle, engine, and equipment replacements. Eligible technology includes new diesel, alternative fuel, and zero emission vehicles. Eligible on-road vehicles must be registered and domiciled in Rhode Island, and 50% of the vehicle miles travelled or hours of operation must be in Rhode Island for at least five years after receiving the grant. For more information, including additional eligibility requirements, see the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Diesel Emissions Reduction Act website.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-47.3-5.1)
Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) and Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Rebates
The Driving Rhode Island to Vehicle Electrification (DRIVE EV) rebate program offers rebates for the purchase or lease of ZEVs and PHEVs. Rebate amounts vary based on vehicle type:
|Vehicle Technology||Maximum Rebate Amount|
|ZEV||$2,500 for a new vehicle; $1,500 for a pre-owned vehicle|
|PHEV||$1,500 for a new vehicle; $750 for a pre-owned vehicle|
ZEVs include all-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. New vehicles may not have a purchase price above $60,000, and pre-owned vehicles may not have a purchase price above $40,000. All eligible vehicles must be purchased on or after July 7, 2022. An additional rebate of up to $2,000 is available to applicants that participate in a state or federal income-qualified program. Rebates are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, including a list of income-qualified programs, see the DRIVE EV and DRIVE EV+ websites.
Electric Vehicle Emissions Inspection Exemption
Vehicles powered exclusively by electricity are exempt from state emissions control inspections. For more information, see the Rhode Island Emissions and Safety Testing Program website.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-47.1-5)
Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) Weight Exemption
A vehicle primarily powered by natural gas may exceed the state’s gross vehicle weight limits by a weight equal to the difference between the weight of the vehicle with the natural gas tank and fueling system and the weight of a comparable vehicle with a diesel tank and fueling system. The NGV maximum gross weight may not exceed 82,000 pounds.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-25-2)
Biodiesel Tax Exemption
Biodiesel is exempt from the $0.34 per gallon state motor fuel tax. Biodiesel may be blended with other fuel for use in motor vehicles, but only the biodiesel portion of the blended fuel is exempt. Biodiesel is defined as fuel that is derived from vegetable oils or animal fats and conforms to ASTM Standard D6751 specifications for use in diesel engines and results in employment at a manufacturing facility for biodiesel fuel. Biodiesel must be produced at a manufacturing facility in Rhode Island.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-36-1(6))
Fleet Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Rebates
The Driving Rhode Island to Vehicle Electrification Fleet (DRIVE EV Fleet) program offers rebates of up to $2,500 for the purchase or lease of a new ZEV and $1,500 for the purchase or lease of a pre-owned ZEV. New vehicles may not have a purchase price above $60,000, and pre-owned vehicles may not have a purchase price above $40,000. All eligible vehicles must be purchased on or after July 7, 2022. An additional rebate of $1,000 per vehicle is available for applicants located in high-asthma communities. ZEVs include all-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. Eligible applicants include small businesses with less than 500 employees, non-profit organizations, state and local government agencies, school districts, and public libraries. Rebates are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Applicants may receive a maximum of five rebates every two years. For more information, including a list of high-asthma communities, see the DRIVE EV Fleet website.
Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Station Incentive – Rhode Island Energy
Rhode Island Energy offers commercial customers rebates of up to 100% of installation costs for select Level 2 or direct current fast charging (DCFC) stations at workplaces, businesses, multi-unit dwellings, universities, and medical campuses. For more information, including eligible equipment, see the Rhode Island Energy Electric Transportation and Charging Programs website.
Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Support
Rhode Island utilities joined the National Electric Highway Coalition (NEHC), committing to create a network of direct current fast charging (DCFC) stations connecting major highway systems from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific of the United States. NEHC utility members agree to ensure efficient and effective fast charging deployment plans that enable long distance EV travel, avoiding duplication among coalition utilities, and complement existing corridor DCFC sites. For more information, including a list of participating utilities and states, see the NEHC website.
Laws and Regulations
Electric Vehicle (EV) Infrastructure Development Support
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation, along with the Division of Motor Vehicles and the Office of Energy Resources, published a statewide public electric vehicle (EV) charging station plan in December 2021. The plan outlines needs, opportunities, and recommendations for expanding EVSE infrastructure in Rhode Island. Recommendations include:
- Invest in incentive programs for EVs and EV charging stations;
- Increase equity considerations in EV and EV charging station programs;
- Increase electrification of transit and school busses and other medium- and heavy-duty vehicles;
- Conduct an analysis on how transportation electrification will impact transportation revenue;
- Support the decarbonization of electricity;
- Develop a clean transportation dashboard to track electrification progress; and,
- Lead by example through state agency action.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-3.3-1)
Climate Change Action Plan
The Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council must develop a plan for an equitable transition to net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The plan must include environmental justice considerations and strategies to reduce GHG emissions in the transportation sector. The plan must be submitted to the governor and general assembly no later than December 31, 2025, and every 5 years thereafter.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 42-6.2-2)
Electric Transit Bus Pilot and Replacement Program
The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is responsible for implementing the RIPTA Zero Emissions Vehicle Program to evaluate electric transit buses to replace retired diesel buses. This program is part of Rhode Island’s Beneficiary Mitigation Plan and is funded by Rhode Island’s portion of the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. For more information see the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Volkswagen Settlement website.
Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Tax Exemption Authorization - Warren
The town of Warren may allow excise tax exemptions of up to $100 for qualified AFVs registered in Warren. Qualified vehicles must be primarily fueled with one of the following: an electric motor drawing current from rechargeable batteries or fuel cells; gas produced from biomass, where biomass is defined as any organic material other than oil, natural gas, and coal; liquid, gaseous or solid synthetic fuels produced from coal; or coke or coke gas.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 44-34-14)
Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Parking Restriction
No person can stop, stand, or park a vehicle in a parking space where there is a EV charging station and signage indicating that parking is for EV charging only, unless the vehicle is connected to the charging equipment. Violations will be subject to a fine of $85.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-21-18 and Rhode Island General Laws 31-41.1-4)
Electric Drive Vehicle License Plates
The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may issue special vehicle license plates to owners of electric drive vehicles, including those powered in whole or in part by a storage battery. Eligible vehicles include hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and all-electric vehicles registered as electric drive vehicles in the state. For more information, including license plate fee, see the Rhode Island DMV Other Plates website.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-3-101)
Clean School Bus Requirements
Full-size school buses equipped with an engine from Model Year (MY) 1993 or older may not be used to transport school children in Rhode Island. Additionally, provided that there is sufficient federal or state funding, all full-size school buses transporting children in the state must be retrofitted with a closed crankcase ventilation system and either: 1) be equipped with a Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 emissions control retrofit device that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has verified; 2) be equipped with a MY 2007 or newer engine; or 3) achieve the same or greater reductions in diesel particulate matter as compared to an alternative fuel, such as compressed natural gas, and be verified by CARB or EPA to reduce diesel particulate matter emissions at a level equivalent to or greater than a MY 2007 or newer engine.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-47.3-3)
Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Sales Requirements and Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Standards
Rhode Island has adopted the California motor vehicle emissions standards and compliance requirements specified in Title 13 of the California Code of Regulations. These regulations apply to passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty vehicles. Manufacturers must meet the greenhouse gas emissions standard and the ZEV production and sales requirements.
(Reference Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Regulation Chapter 12-05-37)
Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) and Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Acquisition Requirements
To reduce fuel consumption and pollution emissions, and purchase vehicles that provide the best value on a life cycle cost basis, the state must take the following actions:
- At least 75% of state motor vehicle acquisitions must be AFVs, and the remaining 25% must be HEVs to the greatest extent possible. By 2025, 25% of state motor vehicle acquisitions must be ZEVs;
- All new light-duty trucks in the state fleet must achieve a minimum city fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon (mpg) and achieve at least a Low Emission Vehicle certification, and all new passenger vehicles in the state fleet must achieve a minimum city fuel economy of 23 mpg;
- All state agencies must purchase the most economical, fuel-efficient, and lowest emission vehicles appropriate to meet requirements and discourage the purchase of sport utility vehicles;
- All state agencies must purchase low rolling resistance tires with superior tread life for state vehicles when possible; and
- All state vehicles must be maintained according to manufacturer specifications, including specified tire pressures and ratings.
The state must also prepare an annual report to the governor on compliance with these goals.
(Reference Executive Order 15-17 and Executive Order 05-13, 2005)
State Agency Coordination to Address Climate Change
The Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (EC4) was established to coordinate efforts between state agencies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EC4 will pursue GHG emissions reductions of 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. State agencies must assist EC4 to develop programs to encourage state employees to reduce vehicle miles traveled and use public transportation when available. The Council will also work with municipalities to encourage sustainability; identify federal, state, and private funding opportunities that can be leveraged to reduce emissions in Rhode Island; and develop GHG emissions reduction strategies. The Council submitted a plan in December 2016 with suggested strategies for GHG emissions reduction activities to the governor. The EC4 and the State Chief Resiliency Officer submitted a statewide Action Plan to Stand Up to Climate Change and to the governor in July 2018.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 42-6.2 and Executive Order(PDF) 17-10, 2017)
Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Deployment Support
Rhode Island joined California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Vermont in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to support the deployment of ZEVs through involvement in a ZEV Program Implementation Task Force (Task Force). In May 2014, the Task Force published a ZEV Action Plan (Plan) identifying 11 priority actions to accomplish the goals of the MOU, including deploying at least 3.3 million ZEVs and adequate fueling infrastructure within the signatory states by 2025. The Plan also includes a research agenda to inform future actions. On an annual basis, each state must report on the number of registered ZEVs, the number of public electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) and hydrogen fueling stations, and available information regarding workplace fueling for ZEVs.
In June 2018, the Task Force published a new ZEV Action Plan for 2018-2021. Building on the 2014 Action Plan, the 2018 Action Plan makes recommendations for states and other key partners in five priority areas:
- Raising consumer awareness and interest in electric vehicle technology;
- Building out a reliable and convenient residential, workplace and public charging/fueling infrastructure network;
- Continuing and improving access to consumer purchase and non-financial incentives;
- Expanding public and private sector fleet adoption; and
- Supporting dealership efforts to increase ZEV sales.
For more information, see the Multi State ZEV Task Force website.
Medium- and Heavy-Duty Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Deployment Support
California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington (signatory states) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to support the deployment of medium- and heavy-duty (MHD) ZEVs through involvement in a Multi-State ZEV Task Force (Task Force).
In July 2022, the Task Force published a multi-state action plan to support electrification of MHD vehicles. The action plan includes strategies and recommendations to accomplish the goals of the MOU, including limiting all new MHD vehicle sales in the signatory states to ZEVs by 2050, accelerating the deployment of MHD ZEVs, and ensuring MHD ZEV deployment also benefits disadvantaged communities.
For more information, see the Medium- and Heavy-Duty ZEVs: Action Plan Development Process website.
Petroleum Reduction Initiative
The Petroleum Savings and Independence Advisory Commission (Commission) was established to provide recommendations and monitor programs designed to reduce the state’s dependence on petroleum-based fuels in the transportation and heating sectors. Established targets may not provide less than a 30% overall reduction in petroleum consumption from 2007 levels by 2030 and a 50% overall reduction from 2007 levels by 2050. Recommendations will include those related to incentives, plug-in electric vehicle deployment, implementation of a clean fuels standard, and land use planning. The Commission must report on monitoring activities to the General Assembly at least every two years. The Commission must also continue to evaluate the state’s progress toward meeting petroleum-reduction goals and make recommendations to the General Assembly as necessary.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 42-140.4)
Idle Reduction Requirement
Motor vehicles may not idle unnecessarily for longer than five consecutive minutes during any 60-minute period. This includes heavy-duty diesel vehicles used to perform any state public works contracts. Unnecessary idling does not include circumstances exempted by regulations the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has adopted, such as when it is necessary to operate heating and cooling equipment to ensure the health or safety of drivers and passengers. Other vehicles exempt from these requirements include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Emergency response, public safety, or military vehicles
- Armored vehicles being loaded or unloaded
- Non-road vehicles
- Vehicles making deliveries of fuel or energy products.
Violators of these regulations will be fined up to $100 for the first offense and up to $500 for each succeeding offense.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 23-23-29.2, 31-16.1 and 31-41.1-4)
Emissions Control Requirement
Heavy-duty diesel vehicles used to perform federally funded state public works contracts must be powered by engines with Level 3 emissions control devices that are properly operated and maintained. If the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management determines that no verified Level 3 devices are appropriate on particular engines, Level 2 devices are required. Likewise, if no verified Level 2 devices are appropriate, Level 1 devices are required. Exceptions to this requirement include, but are not limited to, snow removal vehicles and equipment, farm equipment, emergency response vehicles, standby generators, and vehicles used on a project for less than 30 total work days over the life of the project.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-47.3-5)
Low-Speed Vehicle Access to Roadways - City of Newport
A low-speed vehicle may operate on the roadways of the City of Newport as a commercial jitney service between the hours of 6am and 12am. A low-speed vehicle may not operate on a street or highway with a posted speed limit greater than 25 miles per hour (mph), but it may cross a street or highway with a posted speed limit greater than 35 mph. For the purpose of this regulation, a low-speed vehicle is defined as a self-propelled, electric, or gas powered motor vehicle that is designed to carry no more than eight passengers; is designed to be and is operated at speeds of not more than 25 mph; and conforms to the maximum safety equipment requirements and standards specified in Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, section 571.500.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-19.5-1)
Low-Speed Vehicle Access to Roadways - Prudence Island
A low-speed vehicle may operate on the roadways of Prudence Island between the hours of 6am and 6pm. A low-speed vehicle may not operate on a street or highway with a posted speed limit greater than 25 miles per hour (mph), but it may cross a street or highway with a posted speed limit greater than 35 mph. For the purpose of this regulation, a low-speed vehicle is defined as a self-propelled, electric or gas powered motor vehicle that is designed to carry no more than four passengers; is designed to be and is operated at speeds of not more than 25 mph; and conforms to the maximum safety equipment requirements and standards specified in Title 49 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, section 571.500.
(Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-19.4-1)
Public Utility Definition
A company that provides alternative fuel or energy sources for use as a motor vehicle fuel or energy source is not defined as a public utility. (Reference Rhode Island Code 39-1-2)