Governor Brown seeks $2.5B for clean cars push

Source: Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, January 30, 2018

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) wants the state to spend $2.5 billion to accelerate adoption of clean cars.

The governor proposed an eight-year plan Friday to add electric and hydrogen vehicle fueling stations and to fund more consumer rebates for vehicle purchases. It came alongside an executive order increasing the state’s goal for zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) to 5 million by 2030. The previous goal was 1.5 million by 2025.

Right now, California motorists own roughly 350,000 cars that qualify as ZEVs, out of more than 25 million passenger cars (Climatewire, Jan. 26).

The transportation sector emits 50 percent of the state’s greenhouse gases after factoring in car manufacturing and refineries that make fuels, officials said.

“In his State of the State address yesterday, the governor noted that the recent devastating fires and mudslides show how a changing climate presents a fundamental challenge for the way we live,” Matt Rodriquez, California’s secretary for environmental protection, told reporters in a call Friday.

Brown’s vision for adaptation includes enhanced management of forests, communities that use renewable energy efficiently and working with agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Rodriquez said. In addition, he said, “we’ve got to move away from our reliance on petroleum-based transportation.”

The state Legislature last year voted to extend California’s cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions through 2030. That will provide revenues for climate-based efforts, Rodriquez said.

The Brown plan calls for using revenues from cap and trade to bankroll $1.6 billion in car rebates through 2025. Another $900 million from the Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program would fund the infrastructure portion.

The clean car spending plan will be included in Brown’s fiscal 2018 to 2019 budget proposal. There are allocations for that year but also for the eight-year plan. It will be built into the “baseline,” which means that, once approved, it will get funded automatically each year, unless the Legislature decides to cut it in the future. This is the last year of Brown’s tenure.

Brown’s blueprint calls for spending $200 million annually on the rebates for purchase or lease of new light-duty ZEVs and plug-in hybrids. The state already offers those, but the money will make more available. California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols said she did not anticipate increasing the amounts of the incentives.

Consumer awareness

Brown’s order seeks 250,000 EV charging stations with 10,000 direct-current fast chargers and 200 hydrogen stations.

The state right now has roughly 14,000 public EV charging stations, including 1,500 DC fast chargers. There are 31 hydrogen stations, with funding for 60 more.

The Energy Commission will develop a plan for where the new stations will go and how many will serve passenger cars versus heavy-duty vehicles. There’s a goal of putting a portion in disadvantaged and low-income neighborhoods. The state wants to increase the number of those residents who buy or use clean cars.

“Zero-emissions vehicles are really beginning to demonstrate their ability to act as a solution for meeting our air quality and climate goals,” Nichols said. “And they’re emerging as market winners,” with many automakers releasing new models.

“We’re also now beginning to see an acute need for infrastructure to support those vehicles,” she added.

Sales of ZEVs have accounted for less than 5 percent of recent car sales in the state, and truck sales still represent half of vehicle sales. Nichols said the spending plan will help make motorists more aware of their options.

“We know that consumer interest is tied to awareness of the availability of these vehicles,” Nichols said. With just 350,000 on state roads, she said, “not everybody gets to see them in their communities.”

To meet the ZEV goal in Brown’s executive order, about 40 percent of sales of passenger cars and light trucks must be electric by 2030, Nichols said. She said the cars are popular with people once they become familiar and that there have been advances in batteries. Given that, she said, “we think that is a very reasonable proposal — it’s not a stretch.”

It takes markedly longer to charge an electric car than the five minutes needed to fill up a gas tank, Brian Maas, president of California New Car Dealers Association, has said. “That’s a significant change in behavior,” he said (Climatewire, Nov. 8, 2017).

California Energy Commissioner Janea Scott said refueling hydrogen cars is fast. Nichols added that there’s “a lot of technology coming online very quickly in terms of faster charging being available” for EVs.

Joel Levin, executive director of Plug In America, welcomed the executive order and spending plan. He said the policies, “coupled with targeted investments, ensure that California solidifies its climate action leadership. We encourage other states to follow suit.”