As if the world needed further evidence of California’s environmental exceptionalism, the state is being closely watched as the proving ground for the next technological surge in the battle for clean air: The electrification of personal transportation.
Thanks to investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency policies, California has significantly reduced pollution from its electricity sector and is on course to steadily reduce it further over the next two decades. The next best opportunities to achieve climate emissions reductions exist in the transportation sector, which generates roughly 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The state air board has already innovated a system for trading zero emission vehicle credits, as discussed in this LA Times column by Michael Hiltzik.
In stark contrast to the dense policy fog descending over Washington, DC, California voters last month sent unequivocal support mandates to their state policy makers and regulators to continue their efforts to curb carbon and spark clean technologies in energy and transportation industries. In fact, 64% of those asked in a recent Field Research Corp. poll support the efforts by the California Air Resources Board to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
It is this grassroots policy consensus that makes California the logical home of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles. As a recent Associated Press story claimed, stakeholder engagement groups such as the Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Collaborative Council (of which CEERT is a key organizer) are helping California develop the nation’s first infrastructure to support widespread adoption of these cleaner cars. An alliance of automakers, utilities, regulators and clean-air advocates, the Council released an ambitious plan this past Monday to make California a national leader in accommodating electric vehicles by making charging terminals available in thousands of homes, office buildings, shopping malls and other sites within the next decade.
The announcement comes on the heels of several other promisinjg signs that the entire U.S. is taking steps to wean the country off of polluting and often imported fossil fuels. For example, several corporations — Staples, FedEx, Pepsi and AT&T – have all recently launched PHEV truck programs for their commercial fleets. While these vehicles may represent an initial $30,000 premium, paybacks can be less than 4 years given the savings accrued from not needing to replace brakes as often, or to change oil and transmission fluids, and other ongoing maintenance expenses linked to the traditional internal combustion engine.
Along with California cities such as San Diego, other hot spots for clean electric cars are Houston, Texas — home of the nation’s oil and natural gas industry — and Detroit, our Motor City in Michigan. According to Pike Research, 80% of near-term charging for our plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will be in our homes, though retailers such as Best Buy are working with firms such as Ecotality to feature public charging stations at all of their outlets within the next few years.