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Published on November 14th, 2013 | by Silvio Marcacci

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Can California Charge Ahead To One Million EVs Within Ten Years?

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November 14th, 2013 by  

Just how much can putting one million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in California save lives, cut consumer bills, and boost the green economy?

That’s the question being answered by the Charge Ahead California campaign, a new initiative launched today by a coalition of environmental and public health groups led by the Natural Resources Defense Council seeking to direct pollution fees on oil companies toward funding clean transportation incentives across the Sunshine State.

And while California already leads the US in EV sales as the epicenter of America’s clean tech market, today’s announcement is yet another reminder of how far clean tech can drive us all toward a sustainable future.

EVs An Environmental Health Imperative

EV advocates often tout their environmental benefits in comparison to vehicles running on gasoline or diesel, and it’s hard to argue that equation is more distinct anywhere outside of California – cars, trucks, and buses are the single largest source of air pollution in the state.

The American Lung Association’s 2013 “State of the Air” report ranked seven California cities among the ten most polluted in America, and 40% of state residents live close enough to traffic to be at an increased risk of asthma or cancer, while 6,000 residents die from traffic pollution every year – twice as many as in motor vehicle accidents.

“More Californians live near a freeway or busy road than anywhere else in the country and it is no surprise communities living near these pollution hot spots experience higher rates of asthma,” said Bonnie Holmes-Gen of the American Lung Association. “One of the most effective ways to reduce health emergencies from asthma and other respiratory illnesses is to cut vehicle pollution and support the transition to clean, emission-free cars and trucks.

Because of the high percentage of renewables on California’s electrical grid, EVs reduce emissions by 75% and an all-electric fleet running on a third renewable power (California’s 2020 renewable portfolio standard target) would prevent $14 billion in health and climate damages as well as 10,000 asthma attacks every year.

California EVs Cut Consumer Costs, Boost Green Jobs

But beyond environmental benefits, Charge Ahead California’s one million EV goal could also have massive economic impacts. State residents currently spend $70 billion on gasoline and diesel every year, with $40 million going to companies located in other states or other countries, doubling the economic drain without even adding in the volatile nature of fuel prices from foreign sources.

By comparison, EVs promise much cheaper and stable transportation costs. The Department of Energy estimates driving an EV is the equivalent of paying one dollar per gallon in a gasoline vehicle, and electricity rates have been relatively stable over the past 40 years. California also offers innovative time-of-use power pricing that further benefits EVs charging at night on cheaper off-peak hours.

Adding more EVs to the roads could also supercharge California’s green industry. The campaign notes multiple companies are already expanding their facilities and creating new manufacturing jobs in the state to meet EV demand that’s doubled since 2012, and estimates 100,000 additional jobs could be created by 2030 by shifting to EVs.

One Million EVs Might Actually Be Possible

The core proposition of Charge Ahead California is improving the local economy and environment, but the main attraction is just how entirely possible its goal of one million EVs is, given existing initiatives and consumer demand.

Roughly a third of all EVs on American roads today are located in California, and it is by far the biggest market within the recent eight-state agreement to put 3.3 million EVs on the road by 2025. The state is also home to the largest concentration of EV charging stations and keeps investing more money into charging infrastructure.

In addition, the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy has committed British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington to expanding low-carbon fuel standards while increasing the use of EVs across the region. More and more EVs are hitting the road but even with more EVs on the grid, consumers don’t have to worry about causing blackouts when they plug in – Southern California Edison’s utility territory is home to 10% of all EVs in America but reported no negative effects from their charging.

While the state has already taken the lead in funding clean transportation initiatives, it’s not enough to rest on previous accomplishments. “California’s leadership has paved the way for a promising market for electric vehicles,” said Don Anair of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “However sustained investment is necessary to enable this technology to reach its potential.”

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.



  • Wayne Williamson

    I think the 40 million mentioned the in article was supposed to be 40 billion…

  • Shiggity

    I think Tesla Motors themselves could do 1 million cars in 10 years.

  • spec9

    Uh . . . we are not “the Sunshine State”. And please don’t confuse us with those crazies. ;-) (Florida)

  • spec9

    There are two huge factors: (1) The price of battery cells; and (2) The price of oil. A big combination of the former going down and the latter going up will cause a surge in EV sales. We would all like it to be batteries getting cheaper but I suspect it will be oil getting more expensive that is the bigger factor.

    • PaulScott58

      Spec9 is correct. Lately, we’ve seen oil prices drop. This is the perfect time to finally add taxes to gasoline and diesel to recover some of the massive costs to society oil causes. The market will take care of things from there.

  • Marion Meads

    I will soon have a total of 3 plug-in EV’s.

    • dcard

      Awesome! If they can increase the battery energy density and price by about 2x, we can have family size hybrids that get 30 miles before needing the small ICE to kick in. Mileage would increase to 60mpg. Prius plugin would get a 100. Many Californians would need almost no gasoline and could still go 500 miles between fuel stops on long trips. I think we will get much better batteries within just a few years. Musk’s prediction of 4x batteries could happen in 10 to 15 years as well.

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