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California continues to lead the way on electric vehicles

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California set to exceed goal of 1.5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025  

row of electric cars charging Sopotnicki/Shutterstock

As the barriers to widespread electric car adoption continue to fall, a new report suggests California, a leader in EV adoption, is likely to succeed with its goal to have 1.5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025.

Next 10, a San Francisco-based think tank, explored the state’s attempts to expand its EV fleet in The Road Ahead for Zero-Emission Vehicles in California: Market Trends & Policy Analysis. The study looks at electric vehicles as they hit an inflection point: Battery costs have fallen, ranges continue to grow, many cities and even countries have passed or proposed laws to ban internal combustion engines in the future, and many leading carmakers such as Ford and GM have announced sizable investments in electric vehicles.

California has led the way in the United States, according to report authors F. Noel Perry and Adam Fowler. As of October 2017, the state has 337,482 zero-emission vehicles (ZEV). While that only makes up 4.5 percent of the state’s total vehicle fleet, that number grew 53 percent between 2013 and 2017. It’s far outpacing the total electric vehicle percentage in the United States as a whole, 1.1 percent, and China, 1.8 percent, cementing California’s status as a world leader. It’s also giving the state more of a fighting chance to make its emissions reduction targets, since transportation accounts for roughly 40 percent of the state’s carbon emissions. reduction

California’s EV adoption rate is ahead of the curve
Next 10

Broader forces at work have helped push this rapid growth, not just state and federal incentives. Fowler says that battery costs, the most expensive part of any electric vehicle, have fallen 74 percent since 2010, and continued increases in battery range, such as the 200-mile plus range of the Chevy Bolt and 300-plus mile range of the Tesla Model 3, have helped calm range anxiety. Perry also points to another study included in the report that shows the lifecycle costs of EVs have also gotten to the point where it’s comparable with gas-powered cars.

“There are a couple models that, in a few years, will be in the range and on par with internal combustion vehicles without taking into account any government subsidies,” he says. “That’s really quite meaningful that some of the more popular and high performing EVs are competitive with gas cars.”

If California continues on the current rate of adoption, it will shoot past its goal of 1.5 million EVs by 2025, and approach Governor Jerry Brown’s new goal of 5 million EVs by 2030.

But to reach that newer, loftier goal, the state needs to invest more in infrastructure, and consider additional measures to account for such a significant change in its transportation system. To encourage more EVs, the state needs more charging infrastructure, especially for renters who can’t set up their own chargers (home charging is still the most common way to power EVs). Gov. Brown recently announced a plan to spend billions of dollars to expand the state’s total number of electric charging stations to 250,000 using proceeds from cap-and-trade policies.

Right now, California has 16,549 public and nonresidential private-sector charging outlets, more than any other state in the nation, but still just 0.05 outlet per ZEV, one of the lowest rates in the country.

“We need to make sure that renters have adequate infrastructure for renters, and make sure our housing policy makes sure this isn’t a barrier for renters,” says Perry.

Fowler also says the state needs to figure out how to make up for the loss of gas tax revenue, since increased EVs mean less traditional funding for road maintenance.