The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) works to achieve significant energy savings and reduced emissions in transportation.
SWEEP works to advance state and regional policies that promote the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), increase fuel efficiency of new vehicles, and reduce motor vehicle use.
*Savings and benefits data preliminary as of spring 2023.
Areas of focus
Building codes and electric vehicles
EV infrastructure building codes
EV infrastructure building codes require parking in new buildings to include the electrical equipment necessary to enable the easy and low-cost installation of EV charging stations. EV building codes give more people the option to drive an EV by increasing the number of charging stations and by bringing down charger installation costs by 75 percent or more compared to installing EV chargers during a building retrofit.
Why we need EV building codes
Over the next couple of decades, millions of gas-powered cars will continue to be replaced with EVs, requiring millions of new EV charging stations at homes, offices, rest stops, and shopping centers. State and local governments around the country have adopted bold transportation electrification goals to accelerate EV market growth and unlock the economic and environmental benefits of EVs more quickly. EV infrastructure building codes are an important policy to accelerate the EV market and reduce the costs of meeting climate goals. For local governments, EV building codes are one of the easiest and most affordable strategies to support vehicle electrification in their communities. Once mandatory EV requirements are set in local code, the charging infrastructure automatically spreads throughout the community as neighborhoods grow and evolve, bringing down the cost of charger installations and allowing public and private investments to stretch further over a greater number of new EV charging stations.
EV building codes expand access to EVs
The lack of access to EV charging is one of the top barriers to EV adoption and the cost to retrofit an existing building with charging stations can be cost-prohibitive for many people. Nearly 50 percent of Americans do not have access to a dedicated off-street parking space where they can easily install an EV charging station at low cost. For those living in multi-units dwellings (MUDs), the additional cost to install conduit between the electrical panel and their parking space, and the logistical challenges of securing HOA approval, coordinating the EV charger billing with the building owner, and persuading an owner to make a long-term investment on a rental property, are all significant obstacles to EV ownership. Many existing MUD residents must rely on workplace or public charging outside the home, so it’s important that EV infrastructure requirements be included in both residential and commercial building codes. Studies have shown that employees with access to workplace charging are six times more likely than the average worker to drive an EV.
- Smart land use and Transit-Oriented Development (TOD)
SWEEP advocates for and helps draft bills supporting smart land use and TOD in order to create more walkable and bikeable housing communities, close to transit, and trends where people can limit their need for automobile travel.
- Parking reform
Many cities in the Southwest have parking minimums that require developers to build a certain number of parking spaces per dwelling unit or commercial square foot. The problem is that parking mandates are disconnected from parking demand and they encourage a car-centric culture that results in more vehicles on the road.
- Public rapid Transit
Public transit provides a critical transportation option and SWEEP supports efforts to expand and improve transit service. Transit can provide significant benefits to the regions it serves and Bus Rapid Transit may be the best choice for areas seeking to invest limited resources to build the next generation of transit service.
- Walking and biking
SWEEP supports increasing and improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure so that people have high quality alternatives to driving.
- Transportation funding
Giving governments the ability to decide how to invest their limited transportation funding makes sense where there is growing demand for more and higher quality bike, pedestrian, and transit options.
- Transportation planning
SWEEP works closely with governments in the Southwest to adopt regional goals such as reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These goals should continue to be advanced.
- Driving trends and travel behavior
Across the Southwest and the nation, people have been driving less. However, this trend is not often reflected in travel forecasts from regional planning agencies and state transportation departments. By not accounting for shifts in travel behavior, these agencies over-forecast the need for future new roadways and don’t recognize the need for additional bike, pedestrian, and transit routes.
Benefits of EVs
Compared to gas-powered vehicles, EVs use much less energy, can be powered by locally produced renewable electricity (as opposed to imported oil), can significantly improve local air quality, reduce GHG emissions, and dramatically reduce fuel costs. For these and other reasons, SWEEP works to promote the increased adoption of EVs across the Southwest.
- Environmental and economic benefits
SWEEP regularly analyzes the economic and environmental benefits of EVs compared to gasoline vehicles in each of our states and specifically in the main urban areas of each state. Even accounting for upstream power plant emissions, EVs generally significantly reduce GHG emissions and improve local air quality. EVs also significantly reduce fuel costs, which keeps money in drivers’ pockets and helps keep money in the local economy by reducing the need for imported gasoline.
One of the main barriers to increased EV adoption is their higher upfront cost. States can reduce this upfront cost and increase adoption rates by offering incentives such as tax credits or rebates to defray the initial incremental cost.
- EV charging infrastructure
State governments can play an important role in providing EV service equipment, especially along interstate corridors which will expand the ability of EVs to make longer distance trips. SWEEP continues to successfully advocate for the states of Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah to allocate funding to building out their charging networks.
- Building codes
An important way to support the spread of charging stations is updating building codes to ensure that new residential and commercial buildings are EV ready. Incorporating conduit, wiring, or an actual charging station during construction is much cheaper than retrofitting at a later date.
- Medium and heavy duty EVs + clean trucks
Larger and heavier EVs are becoming more common in specific applications such as delivery trucks, garbage trucks, and transit and school buses. Many counties in the Southwest provide tax credits for medium and heavy duty EVs.
- Fleet vehicles
Government vehicle fleets can be leaders in adopting new vehicle technologies. However, upfront costs of EVs can make it difficult for fleets to purchase them. Performance contracting provides government fleets an additional tool to offset the incremental cost of EVs.
- Utility involvement
As the suppliers of fuel for EVs, utilities have an important role to play in their adoption. By offering time-of-use rates and supporting infrastructure and vehicle deployment, utilities can help support the market for EVs.
Smart land use
In many cases, state and regional policies have the effect of subsidizing and enabling sprawl because state transportation agencies typically do not incorporate land use into the transportation planning process. Without considering land use and transportation together, we will forever be throwing good money after bad land use decisions. Agencies should develop a set of strategic growth objectives to guide new growth into urban areas with good access to transit, jobs, and other services, reduce GHG emissions, promote fiscally-responsible growth, and prevent low-density exurban sprawl. The intent is for transportation agencies to incorporate smart land use criteria into their planning process and reward projects that support affordable housing, and transportation-efficient, mixed-use development. This could lead to more investment in transit-oriented development infrastructure and less in new, sprawl-enabling interchanges and road lane miles outside of urban areas.
GHG from transportation is the largest contributor to climate emissions. To course-correct towards climate disaster, we need to cut household driving drastically and increase investments in transit, biking, and walking infrastructure and building homes closer to jobs, schools, grocery stores, and other key destinations.
The expansion of public transit is almost 10 times more effective in reducing GHG pollution when coupled with transportation-efficient land use. When we consider the full climate benefits of smart land use, including both transportation and building sector emissions, the potential GHG savings are extremely substantial. Residents of TOD drive half as much as those living in the suburbs. Yet, many light-rail stations are surrounded by low-density development, vacant land, and vast parking lots, many of which sit empty. Our transportation system is only as useful as the places it takes us and when we fail to build housing and jobs around transit, we limit our system’s value and utility.
Installation of public charging stations for EVs.
Utility pricing strategies that encourage and reward EV owners for off-peak charging.
Acquisition of EVs by public fleets.
Sustainability and VMT reduction goals as part of regional transportation and land use plans.
Use of state gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees for public transit and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Increased use of tolling, VMT fees, and congestion pricing on highways.
Expansion of mass transit systems including express bus and bus rapid transit service.
Smart land use and transit-oriented development.
Resources and publications
Transportation Program Director
Senior Transportation Associate
Support our work
Supporting SWEEP’s Transportation Program allows us to advance state and regional policies that increase the fuel efficiency of new vehicles, promote the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), expand EV charging infrastructure, develop smart land use policies, increase and expand use of public transit, reduce motor vehicle use, and clean up air quality for all of the Southwest’s communities.