Local government policies are key to EV adoption: Findings from e4 Policy Committee meeting

Industry experts offered next steps local governments can take to comply with Governor Newsom’s EV order and support more EV adoption, at the e4 Mobility Alliance meeting held on October 22nd.  The meeting’s open discussion of public policy measures drilled into opportunities and challenges at the heart of EV adoption.  Sponsored by Southern California Edison (SCE) and hosted by LAEDC, this policy committee framework of e4 will be meeting several times in coming months.  Also, the next e4 meeting will be November 12th, focused on workforce development issues.

If you are involved in the EV industry or the ecosystem of policy, infrastructure and related industries, please be sure to attend the upcoming e4 meetings which look for ways to accelerate the industry’s growth, which already supports 120,000 direct jobs in SoCal.  Contact Celina Pacana at LAEDC to stay abreast of developments:  [email protected]

The meeting kicked off with a presentation by Kristen Torres Pawling, Sustainability Program Manager with County of Los Angeles, who spoke about the Our County sustainability plan, and its ambitious goals.  In particular Kristen T. discussed the goals for medium and heavy duty zero emissions vehicles for the key freight corridors, such as along the 710 freeway where she grew up.  “It’s an ongoing environmental justice issue,” she said and cited the communities of color along the freight corridor that suffer with unhealthy levels of emissions.  “We know we will need partnerships,” to make progress on these goals, she said.  She continued, “We want to make LA County a global hub for zero emissions technologies,” and cited the Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP) as an important driver of progress, both for local sustainability goals and our region’s aspirations for growing the local industry to create more jobs.

Kristen shared a slide on the plan’s electric vehicle targets to show manufacturers we are serious in the region about EV adoption.  She also discussed the $150B proposal to Congress, which lays out a comprehensive electrification action plan which could create many tens of thousands of jobs in the region, while moving towards a more environmentally sustainable future.  (sidenote: LAEDC supports the TEP stimulus proposal and co-signed the letter to Congress.  Job creation estimates vary, and Advanced Energy Economy has published California-specific forecasts for dramatic job growth that would arise from electrification stimulus.  TEP forecasts 2.3 million jobs would be created nationally from its proposal, of which 370,000 jobs might be in California (source HR&A research, with additional estimates from E2 research).  Related interesting reading: Rewiring America jobs report (national )

Click the images to enlarge Kristen T.’s slides:

The panel discussion was hosted by Zanku Armenian, Director of Public Affairs for SCE, and took questions submitted by attendees.  He opened by mentioning the SCE Clean Energy Pathway, and said that discussions such as these, and related policy action are important ways to make it happen.

Zanku said, “We need to translate our Pathway into community level action plans, to build EV-ready communities.  We’re behind, and these goals are ambitious.”

He posed the question, “What can local elected officials do with building codes, permitting, electrifying city fleets, and what can local government do to accelerate EV adoption?”

Joel Levin, Executive Director of Plug in America, a national association of EV drivers, talked about a huge focus on public outreach and education about EVs, to help increase consumer adoption and to address their purchasing comfort level.

“There are five categories of action for local governments, and we need all five to have a workable ecosystem where consumers adopt.”

  1.  Create adequate public charging, including workplace and DC fast charging along transit corridors.  “Fifty percent of LA county renters cannot charge at home, so workplace charging is key.  When a workplace installs charging there is also a multiplier effect as other coworkers buy EVs.”
  2.  Building codes mandating “charge-ready” at time of construction are really valuable to make the process cheaper than full retrofits.
  3.  Convert government fleets to EVs
  4.  Improve awareness among consumers that EVs are real, and model desired behavior, by equipping elected leadership with ZEV cars to drive so the public sees the example and knows they are “onboard.”
  5.  Help dealers.  Most ZEVs are sold thru dealers with the exception of Tesla.  Selling EVs is different for dealers.  They need some hand-holding, and it helps to show them a path forward to profits so they will have a thriving business. We need them to be effective at selling EVs and embrace them.

Alex Leumer, Director of Public Policy at ChargePoint, a manufacturer and implementer of charging stations said, “A lot of existing buildings will be there for years to come and there are some cost-effective options, like when you are repaving a parking lot, to rollout EVs.  Permitting can be streamlined at localities across the state, and expediting the permitting process is important so we are not holding up projects.  Leading by example is great, making sure the infrastructure is in place with local government buildings.  “So many states look at California’s leadership for climate and EVs and if we are successful, states across the country will model ZEV goals and policies,” for a more collaborative and effective approach to fighting climate change.

Regarding electrified fleets, what is your experience working with local govts? 

Frank Girardot, Sr Director of Communications for the BYD Company, mentioned BYD is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of batteries and EVs, including cars, electric trucks and electric buses with 750 union workers at the Lancaster, CAlifornia plant, with LADOT contracts and many municipal customers all across North America and globally.  He said BYD has made 16,000 electric buses with hundreds in operation in the US.

Frank said, “The key is infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.”  In Anaheim, they are building an entirely new bus terminal with bus charging capability to run the new electric fleet.  There is a certain amount of time they need to be charged and range isn’t always comparable, so looking at routes is important.  Every community is different, in Washington we have hot and cold seasons, and we worked with charging systems developers to rollout inductive charging so the bus can charge by simply parking momentarily over a charge pad.  Charging needs to be done well to make the community look good, without a lot of wires overhead.  The way bus terminals are setup, they aren’t generally ready for EV buses yet.  So that aspect of planning is important.

Rick Teebay added, “At County Public Works we resurrected old charging infrastructure we put in during the 90’s (think GM’s EV1) and we went from 5 to 95 EV drivers in just a couple years.  “And we will be moving from the short range EVs to a whole new generation of EVs, like the Hummer EV.  I am not sure I need all the features on a vehicle like that, but this kind of advertising is going to build awareness.”  Speaking of vehicle type, he said that the Public Works fleet, for example, has 154 sedans, but 750 pickup trucks.  “When you get a $30-$40,000 pickup truck that has good range, you will see mass conversion of fleets, and everybody is going to need to have infrastructure.  There are so many light duty vehicles coming, but medium & heavy duty vehicles are key.  He said that within the transportation sector in LA County, about 30% of GHG emissions are from these medium/heavy vehicles, and beyond GHG, they a larger share of NOx and PM emissions.  “It’s a huge opportunity.”

Zanku: “The Governor’s order is an even more ambitious goal than we had previously been talking about.   What is the #1 challenge to achieving that goal?  Opportunities and gaps?  Things that don’t yet exist that are needed?”

Alex:  “The challenge is scaling up.  15 years doesn’t seem that far off.  November elections will have a lot of implications for the fight in front of us, whether the federal government opposes or supports action.  Local and state level support will be that much more important.  Planning for these goals now…with buildings, with infrastructure… the charging stations need to be going in now, in the near term,” to be able to meet the executive order targets.

Frank agreed with Alex about the election. “November is critical for our business.”  He indicated that the federal government has spent two years at odds with BYD’s goals of operating in the U.S. “There are 750 jobs on the line.”  He talked about the opportunity in the refuse (trash hauling) business, and BYD manufacturing heavy duty refuse trucks, “They are in operation in Seattle, Palo Alto, Gardena, Maryland… and they are on a fixed route that isn’t very long, the trucks are only in service for a certain time every day,” meaning that they are a great target for electrification.  Communities will benefit from the quiet operation, we’ll have economic justice in the neighborhoods that we should be lifting up and cleaning,” and of he also cited the opportunities at ports with yard tractors to move containers.  “Doing that job emissions-free is beneficial.  And the more we can electrify these vehicles — and the trucks moving goods to secondary terminals — the more we will see big reductions in emissions.”

Zanku: How do local governments keep up with this in terms of Economic Development?

The group discussed the challenge of the local tax base being affected due to the pandemic, for example Anaheim and Disneyland.  What these cities can do, and what LA County has done, is work in conjunction with the cities (and neighboring/overlapping governments) to develop a common stretch goal for infrastructure, so developers can’t play the game of where precisely they locate their building to avoid EV requirements and related costs.

Another solution — A lot of sites are doing “make ready” with conduits that are run and an electric panel, to support future charging stations.  The recommendation was offered that those parking spaces which are ready but not operational represent low-hanging fruit.  This is a good time to make these electric-ready parking spaces operational, which levers previous investment and keeps costs down.

Joel:  “The single biggest challenge is people like different types of cars, like pickups, or minivans, and many of those segments still don’t have vehicles they want to buy, so no EV meets their needs.  Having a selection that meets everyone’s needs and good supply will be key.”

Frank:  There are a lot of applications: Buses, forklifts, freight tugs.  “We just acquired space in Carson and may be doing more manufacturing,” to serve those market segments here.  “The buy-American requirements – we need that – because we are not just building here, we are supporting American suppliers.”

Alex:  ChargePoint pricing is set in cooperation with building owners, schools, universities, they use software to set pricing and can change rates for low usage times, and this helps even-out the duck curve on the grid.  State legislation and PUC might be able to set a cap on charging prices, but that can be a challenging issue to regulate.  There is no cap right now, the market is left to sort it out.

LAEDC’s Judy Kruger, Senior Director, Industry Cluster Development

Zanku:  We see that the variety of players in this market need to come together to move the ball up the field.  The intent of these conversations is to help us work together to advocate for common interests because it is going to take a tremendous partnership.  There’s a huge opportunity for SoCal to be a leader and lead the country on such an important topic.

“We are leading the charge.  What we do in the next 6-12 months is really critical. Please be involved.”

To learn more about e4, contact Judy Kruger at LAEDC, at [email protected]

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