Moving Forward with Electric Vehicles

By 2016 nearly 230,000 Zero Emission Vehicles including fully electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell electric vehicles were registered in California.

By 2016 nearly 230,000 Zero Emission Vehicles were registered in California.

By 2016, nearly 230,000 Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs), which include fully electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), and fuel cell electric vehicles, were registered in California according to CARB’s Mid-term Review. This, combined with CARB’s latest compliance scenario, puts us at just over 1.2 million cumulative ZEVs by 2025, just shy of the Governor’s 1.5 million ZEV goal. So what are we doing to meet this ambitious goal?

First, we can take a look at the barriers to widespread adoption. A recent survey from the Mid-term Review, conducted by UC Davis, continues to highlight the top barriers to purchasing a ZEV vehicle for consumers: limited access to charging facilities/fueling, vehicle purchase price, vehicle range, and lack of familiarity with the technology. Though they continue to exist, we are certainly making progress to put these barriers behind us.

PHEVs that bridge the gap between fully electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles will likely be a significant portion of compliance by vehicle manufacturers according to the review. Although they do emit limited emissions depending on their operation, PHEVs are counted towards meeting the 1.5 million ZEV target. Obviously, the long-term goal would be for all vehicles sold to be fully zero emissions, but PHEVs serve a valuable role as a transitional technology to familiarize consumers with EV operation.

As for reducing costs, the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, as part of the Mayor’s National Climate Action Agenda, issued an RFI to OEMs and upfitters of EVs earlier this year in an effort to show manufacturers that cities are ready to buy these vehicles en masse. Banding together would not only provide manufacturers with more confidence to increase production but it may also help bring down EV costs for government and non-government consumers in the long run through economies of scale.

In another effort to remove barriers, the three major electric utilities, PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E are in the beginning stages of adding more charging infrastructure to meet the growing needs of their customers. PG&E alone will be piloting 7,500 charging stations throughout their territory. SCE and SDG&E will be funding a combined 5,000 charging stations in their respective territories. In addition, pending a decision from CARB, Volkswagen would be injecting more than $800 million worth of funding into EV charging infrastructure over the next 10 years.

As always, local jurisdictions are taking the lead and have been hard at work removing barriers in their communities. San Francisco is improving local ordinances to meet future EV charging needs; Contra Costa is developing a county-wide master plan for EVs; Santa Monica is developing their EV action plan; South Bay Cities studied barriers to EVs in multi-unit dwellings; and Fremont recently passed an EV readiness ordinance, to name just a few local efforts.

While the path to 1.5 million ZEVs may seem like a bit of a stretch, the path to any ambitious goal is rarely a straight line. At this point, ZEV sales will need to see significant growth to meet the target. But CARB won’t be letting off the throttle soon; they are already planning for 4 million ZEVs by 2030. Either way, California is on track to continue leading the nation and the world as a champion for clean transportation.