July 2017

Plugging Away at the Expansion of California's EV Charging Infrastructure

With Volvo announcing last week that all of its models will be either hybrids or electric vehicles (EVs) by 2019, there could be no clearer indicator that EVs will soon significantly transform the automotive industry.

EVs are one of the most promising clean technologies, in terms of their potential benefits for the electricity grid, local air pollution, and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Not to mention they're fun to drive.

Expansion of the EV market, however, is threatened by the lack of reliable and accessible charging stations. This is particularly true for the 40 percent of Californians who live in apartments, townhouses, and condominiums without dedicated on-site parking spaces with charging capability (including even just a simple wall outlet).

Our new report, a collaboration between CLEE and the Emmett Institute on Climate Change & the Environment at UCLA Law details a number of solutions to address this challenge. Plugging Away: How to Boost Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure is the eighteenth report from our Climate Change & Business Research Initiative, generously supported by Bank of America since 2009.

A key takeway is that private investment alone won't be enough to facilitate rapid growth of EV charging infrastructure; the business model for charging stations is currently not strong enough to attract sufficient private capital. Simply put, many charging stations are too expensive to build and operate right now, without dependable near-term revenue.

Among a number of detailed solutions, the report recommends:
  • More robust and strategic electric utility investments in charging infrastructure, at least for any new wiring to the charging station, in key locations such as workplaces, multi-unit dwellings, and fast-charge "plazas" to stimulate maximum EV convenience and adoption;

  • Revised commercial electricity rates to encourage charging at the right places and times to best meet grid needs, including options to reduce high demand charges related to peak usage at remote fast-charging sites; and

  • Targeted rebates and grants for office and multi-unit dwelling building owners to install charging stations, as well as expedited permitting to allow more curbside charging.
Electric Vehicle Monthly Sales Chart, Nationwide and
California, 2011-2017

The full report is available for download here.

Also see our report release event video with a keynote presentation by California Energy Commissioner Janea Scott as well as coverage of this report in KPCC Los Angeles and NPR Marketplace Weekend.

For more information, contact Ethan Elkind, the report's lead author and the Director of the Climate Program at CLEE.
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