CA approves utilities' massive $738 million electric vehicle proposal

electric BMWs charging at Google photo
CC BY 2.0 Roman Boed

This will mark a significant scaling of electrified transportation—including trucks and buses too.

California has done a lot for renewables and clean tech, but it also has a deeply entrenched car culture. In fact, according to the California Air Resources Board, transportation accounts for a whopping 39% of overall CO2 emissions in the state. (That compares to 28% of national emissions.) So stepping up electrification—and weaning Californian communities off of car-centric planning—would have an outsized impact on overall emissions.

The chances of this happening sooner rather than later just got a significant boost, as California regulators just approved a massive $738 million investment plan by the state's utilities aimed squarely at electric vehicle charging infrastructure. (With utilities apparently freaking out about flatlining demand, this makes for a logical new revenue source.)

Encouragingly, the approved plans include significant investment in medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, meaning even if we achieve best-case scenarios in terms of weaning individuals off of private car ownership, these investments will still pay dividend in terms of electrifying freight transportation, delivery operations and mass transit too.

Green Tech Media has a useful summary of the main components of the plan, which include $236 million from Pacific Gas & Electric for rebates and charging infrastructure for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles such as trucks, cranes and forklifts at 700 locations, as well as $22 million for DC fast-charging stations at 52 sites. It also includes $137 million for San Diego Gas & Electric, which will be spent on rebates for and installation of charging infrastructure at homes and multi-family dwellings. And it includes $343 million for Southern California Edison, which will drop the money on up to 8,500 medium- and heavy-duty vehicle infrastructure investments spread across 870 different sites.

Also worthy of note, the plan emphasizes investments in low income, urban communities which have suffered disproportionately from the health impacts of poor air quality. Meaning there will be a significant public health and social justice benefit, alongside any broader societal and environmental wins in terms of greenhouse gases alone.

Let's not forget that California is aiming for 50% renewables in its electricity supply by 2030, and many analysts expect it to surpass that goal. So as these proposals roll out—and as electrification of transportation moves into the (ahem) fast lane—we really should start to see a significant dent in overall emissions. After all, electric vehicles are greener literally everywhere. But they are significantly greener where the grid is green too.

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