In summary

A state financing program provides incentives to small business owners and landlords of multi-unit dwellings to install electric vehicle charging stations.

By Fiona Ma, Special to CalMatters

Fiona Ma is the California State Treasurer, Fiona.Ma@Treasurer.ca.gov.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared his intent on Sept. 23 to eliminate the sales of new internal combustion engines in the state by 2035, building on ambitious climate and emissions goals dating back to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and strengthened under Gov. Jerry Brown. 

It’s an audacious goal – keeping in line with California’s leadership on combating climate change – and much work needs to be done in the state to get us there. Californians considering the switch to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) should take heart that the state and private industry are ramping up infrastructure to make the change as painless as possible – with a realistic future for a full-functioning zero-emission vehicles market.

Last year Schwarzenegger joined forces with Veloz, a consortium of more than 40 automakers, utilities and government agencies to promote plug-in electric vehicles and encourage a broader swath of Californians to go electric with an aggressive advertising campaign. 

Despite tremendous promise to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help the state meet its climate goals and more affordable options in the market, electric vehicles have largely struggled to take off in the state. Electric Vehicle and hybrid models still make up just around 8% of new car sales, due to “range anxiety” – or consumer fears about needing to recharge.

Recharging is a legitimate concern in some parts of the state, but recent investments in Electric Vehicle infrastructure have made the availability of charging stations dramatically more abundant than even just a few years ago. 

As a state Assemblywoman, I authored Assembly Bill 631 in 2011 to make investment in EV infrastructure easier by removing burdensome regulations and unnecessary bureaucratic oversight of the California Public Utilities Commission. In the years since, the state has made even greater strides toward spurring the adoption of electric vehicles.

California also has a Clean Vehicle Rebate Program which offers car buyers up to a $4,500 refund on a new clean vehicle purchase. The California Department of Motor Vehicles issues Clean Air Vehicle decals that allow vehicles meeting specified emissions standards for single occupancy use of High Occupancy Vehicle lanes or carpool lanes. 

Consumers and trade groups such as the Electric Vehicle Charging Association agree: these critical incentives for vehicle purchases through the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program and other programs must continue to maintain our momentum deploying EVs. We are also ramping up our efforts to rapidly expand access to electric vehicle charging stations, especially in disadvantaged and minority communities – a 2019 UC Davis study found more fast charging stations in disadvantaged communities than elsewhere in the state. 

Through the California Pollution Control Finance Authority’s CalCAP program administered by my office, the Electric Vehicle Charging Station Program is expanding the number of electric vehicle charging stations installed by small businesses in California. This $2 million financing program provides incentives to small business owners and landlords of multi-unit dwellings to install electric vehicle charging stations for employees, clients and tenants. The program is funded through the California Energy Commission. Email: CalCap@Treasurer.CA.Gov

My office stands ready to assist California car buyers realize the potential environmental and cost saving benefits of buying electric. It will take a collaborative approach that reduces barriers to move zero-emission vehicles from early-adoption into the mainstream and prioritize and incentivize such activities through governmental agencies. If there is one thing we have learned about Californians in the past year alone, it’s that we are made for challenges and poised to meet them head on.

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