LA region aims to slash gas cars before 2028 Olympics

Source: By Anne C. Mulkern, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, December 1, 2019

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti today will unveil an ambitious plan to put far more electric vehicles on the roads, and get more people onto trains, buses and bikes by 2028.

The LA region — home to more than 10 million residents — wants to accomplish the changes before the Summer Olympics come to Los Angeles in 2028. The effort aims to fight climate change and reduce air pollution and traffic in a region infamous for its gridlock.

Garcetti is a leader of Climate Mayors, a group committed to taking steps to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Cities and counties in the new LA coalition agreed to pare greenhouse gas emissions another 25% beyond current amounts they’ve set.

“LA and more broadly Southern California really is where transportation and mobility are synonymous with freedom and prosperity,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, which played a role in helping set the goals. “We have to have a massive undertaking to become a climate-friendly region at a time when we have very little time left to make these changes.”

It has the potential to have a broader impact, Nichols said, because “we’ll leverage change throughout the whole transportation system.” The move comes as the California tourism bureau, Nichols said, is developing a marketing plan that would include “taking a California road trip” on all zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs).

Joining Garcetti are cities and counties in the region, utilities Southern California Edison Co. and the LA Department of Water and Power; carmakers including BMW, Audi, Nissan and Tesla; electric bus maker BYD; the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the region’s rail system; and LA Cleantech Incubator, which nurtures startup businesses.

Dubbed the Zero Emissions 2028 Roadmap 2.0, it adds steps to accomplish aims set 18 months ago, said Matt Peterson president and CEO at LA Cleantech Incubator, which helped develop the plan.

By 2028, the coalition wants ZEVs to make up 30% of cars in the county. Right now, for all of LA County, they make up 10%. That will mean 80% of new car purchases must be fuel-cell or electric by that year.

Peterson called the goals the “most ambitious targets ever set in the country.” Patterson said leaders next year will be looking at policies, incentives and other tools “to make sure we’ll continue to head toward these targets.”

Dan Sperling, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, said the goal “is certainly a stretch.”

However, he said, “it’s not a question of being realistic. What I’ve learned over the years is you set a strong target and it provides some certainty” to automakers, fleet buyers and consumers.

“Ideally, they back it up with some incentives and disincentives that make it plausible,” Sperling said.

More chargers coming

In a major step to accelerate EV adoption, Patterson said, backers of the plan want to add EV chargers in public places, at workplaces, apartments and other multi-unit buildings. The LA Department of Water and Power and Southern California Edison have committed to adding 84,000 charging units in those spots by 2028.

“It’s not just the car and the price of the car, even though that’s obviously the first hurdle that you have to overcome,” said Nichols with CARB. “It’s also access to affordable and widespread charging availability. So that’s something that probably will be occupying more of our attention in the next few years.”

The 30% EV goal might be achievable if EVs already constitute 10% of the cars in LA County, said Gil Tal, research director of the Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies.

That indicates that there are already affluent buyers in the area, Tal said, although he noted that most people keep cars about 12 years.

“It’s a lot about getting to critical mass,” he said, because when people see that their neighbors and others have EVs, “it’s an easier decision.”

However, the carmakers have to produce a wide variety of EV options, including trucks, SUVs and minivans, Tal said. Without those, he said, people who want bigger models are unlikely to settle for an EV sedan.

Former state Sen. Fran Pavley (D), author of the state’s original law limiting tailpipe pollution, said she’s optimistic.

“Every time I’m skeptical something won’t be done, auto manufacturers have history of meeting and exceeding,” Pavley said.

The rash of wildfires and intentional blackouts by utilities also could push people into EVs, Pavley said. Many are looking at adding solar with electric battery storage, and that creates an incentive to get an EV because “you’re creating that energy right there at home,” she said.

LA County’s goals will be easier to reach if the state updates its own goals on EVs, Tal said. That will push manufacturers to accelerate their development of zero-emission vehicles, he said.

“I’m pretty sure they will not be able to meet their goals without the state upping their goals,” Tal said of the LA coalition, because manufacturers won’t make decisions based just on LA County.

Nichols said the state already is fighting to keep its ability to set its own emission standards, and to require carmakers to produce a percentage of zero-emission vehicles. The Trump administration has threatened to revoke the state’s ability to do both. There’s also the potential loss of the federal EV tax credit at year’s end.

However, she said, “we are looking at ways that we can both increase the actual sales mandate and also incentivize much wider adoption.”

Fees to enter downtown LA?

The coalition also wants to get 20% of drivers off the road. It said that’s what is needed to meet greenhouse gas and air quality goals. Local transportation officials next year will develop a more in-depth plan to achieve it, Peterson said.

Options include improving sidewalks and bike lanes, and switching buses to ZEVs equipped with Wi-Fi to make them more pleasant to ride. There need to be better options for the “last mile,” Peterson said, for people to get to their home or office after they get off a bus or train.

There’s also the possibility of adding “congestion pricing,” similar to what’s done in London, where drivers would have to pay to enter at certain times. Other cities have looked at banning diesel or gas-powered vehicles.

The new campaign also targets trucking. Goals include by 2028 making 60% of all medium-duty trucks electric, from the current 9%. It wants to get short-haul drayage trucks to 40% electric from the current 1%. Drayage trucks are the vehicles that take containers out of ports.

“This is more challenging to me than the light-duty,” Tal said. Auto manufacturers that make trucks are just starting to make ZEVs, he said.

“If they want it by eight years from now, that means they will have to ramp up production very fast,” Tal said.

But because battery prices have dropped significantly, “we have a chance,” he said.

The coalition is looking at other moves that would include making one lane on a busy freeway for ZEV trucks only. It would happen on Interstate 710, which is used for access to the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach.

The California Department of Transportation would have to approve designating one freeway lane for only electric trucks.

It’s important to the state to meet its goals for transportation electrification, said Nichols with CARB. And having the state involved in shaping the local program is important because California is a key funder and packager of transportation proposals that come up from the local level, she said.

“The state has overarching goals that it establishes and provides most of the funding” for whatever infrastructure is being built, Nichols said.