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:

State Incentives

Clean Diesel Grant

The Rhode Island Clean Diesel Fund provides companies with reimbursement grants to reduce emissions from heavy-duty diesel vehicles. Qualified vehicle improvements include vehicle replacements, conversions to alternative vehicle fuels, and idle reduction technologies. To be eligible, vehicles must be registered with the Rhode Island Department of Motor Vehicles, and 50% of the vehicle miles travelled or hours of operation must be in Rhode Island for at least five years following receiving the grant. For more information, including eligibility and application requirements, see the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Clean Diesel Fund website. (Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-47.3-5.1).

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) and Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Rebates

The Charge Up! program provides rebates to state and municipal agencies for the purchase and installation of publicly accessible Level 2 or DC fast chargers. Agencies are eligible for up to $60,000 in incentives for EVSE that are installed and operational on or after July 1, 2016. Agencies that install EVSE also qualify for up to $15,000 to support the purchase or lease of a new PEV acquired on or after July 1, 2016, as part of their public sector fleet. For more information, see the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources Charge Up! website.

Point of Contact
Ryan Cote
Program Services Officer
Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources
Phone: (401) 574-9118

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 House Bill 7776, 2018, and Rhode Island General Laws 31-25-2)

Biodiesel Tax Exemption

Biodiesel is exempt from the $0.30 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 D6751 specifications for use in diesel engines and results in employment at a manufacturing facility for biodiesel fuel. (Reference Rhode Island General Laws 31-36-1(14))

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Tax Exemption - 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)

Utility/Private Incentives

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Discounts - People's Power & Light (PP&L)

PP&L's Drive Green with PP&L program provides discounts on qualified PEVs purchased or leased from participating dealerships. The discount program is available to all consumers, including those that are not in PP&L's service territory. For more information, including participating dealerships and the discounts they offer, see the Drive Green with PP&L website.

Laws and Regulations

Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Charging Parking Restriction

No person can stop, stand, or park a vehicle in a parking space where there is a PEV charging station and signage indicating that parking is for PEV charging only, unless the vehicle is connected to the charging equipment. Violations will be subject to a fine of $85. (Reference Senate Bill 77, 2017, and Rhode Island General Laws 31-21-18)

Climate Change Action Plan

The Rhode Island Executive Climate Change Coordinating Council (Council) and the State Chief Resiliency Officer will develop a statewide Action Plan to Stand Up to Climate Change (Plan) and submit the Plan to the governor by July 1, 2018. The Plan will provide recommendations to make Rhode Island's residents, economy, infrastructure (including transportation), health system, and natural resources more resilient to the impacts of climate change. (Reference Executive Order 17-10, 2017)

Electric Drive Vehicle License Plates

The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles 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. (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 No. 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, 2015, and Executive Order 05-13, 2005)

State Agency Coordination to Address Climate Change

The Rhode Island Climate Change Coordinating Council (Council) was established to coordinate efforts between state agencies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Council 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. With assistance from the Council, state agencies will 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. (Reference Rhode Island General Laws 42-6.2)

Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Deployment Support

Rhode Island joined California, Connecticut, 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.

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 was required to report results and recommendations to the General Assembly by February 2014 and must report on monitoring activities 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: 1) emergency response, public safety, or military vehicles; 2) armored vehicles being loaded or unloaded; 3) non-road vehicles; and 4) 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 and 31-16.1)

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 - Prudence Island

A low-speed vehicle may operate on the roadways of Prudence Island between the hours of 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. 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)