UNION CITY, Calif. — California is making strides in electric vehicle adoption, surpassing its goals faster than anticipated. On Monday, Sept. 25, the state achieved another milestone by installing 10,000 fast electric vehicle chargers across the state a year ahead of schedule.
Officials gathered at the newly installed EVgo direct current fast charging stations in Union City’s El Marcado Plaza Shopping Center to mark the achievement. California Energy Commissioner Patricia Monahan, Union City Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci and State Assemblymember Liz Ortega (D-District 20) were among the officials who lauded the collective effort in driving the transition to a cleaner transportation system.
“Everything we can do to fight climate change is so important for the healthy future of everyone,” Dutra-Vernaci said. “What we are doing here today is leading by example and I am proud to be a part of it.”
Assemblymember Ortega echoed this sentiment, stressing the significance of accessible chargers in communities like Union City, where hardworking families who may not have considered EVs in the past now have the opportunity to do so.
Scientists agree that addressing the climate crisis necessitates a shift towards renewable energy and electrification, particularly in the transportation sector, which accounts for 29% of all U.S. emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Passenger cars and light-duty trucks contribute a significant 58% to overall transportation emissions.
California has been leading the way in the transition to electric vehicles, consistently meeting goals for zero-emission vehicle sales and charging infrastructure installation ahead of schedule. Earlier this year, the state announced it had achieved its goal of 1.5 million statewide sales of zero-emission vehicles two years early. The press event Monday again celebrated reaching the goal of installing 10,000 fast EV chargers well ahead of the 2025 target date.
EVgo CEO Catherine Zoi pointed out that’s far more than any other state has done to facilitate the transition to EVs.
“There are just over 30,000 fast chargers in the whole country,” Zoi said. “California has done about a third of them.”
Eleftheria Kontou, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and expert in transportation electrification, affirmed California’s role as a model for other states. States like New York and Illinois have followed its lead in adopting goals to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles by encouraging EV adoption.
“We anticipate that other states will adopt similar goals,” Kontou said.
Easy access to charging infrastructure both within and between cities and through rural corridors is crucial for instilling confidence in EVs, Kontou said. Consumers’ main concerns often revolve around “purchase price and charging infrastructure.” Policies addressing these concerns, such as rebates, tax credits and charging infrastructure installation incentives, play a vital role in gaining consumer trust.
Beyond charging infrastructure, California has been offering rebates to make EVs more affordable. Early on, Kontou said a lot of the rebates being offered were being used by more affluent households who may not have needed them because EVs were still too expensive for lower income consumers. Income caps were effective in ensuring these incentives reach families with more moderate incomes, she said.
Kontou underscored the need for an electric grid powered by renewable energy to complement the shift to EVs so the latter do not inadvertently contribute to more fossil fuel emissions. Electrification also plays a major role in the mass transit and logistics sectors. Small cities like Union City are leading the way through decisions like purchasing 14 new electric buses.
“All these fields are kind of codependent,” Kontou said. “A charging infrastructure network that, for instance, could work for passenger vehicles could be also used by some delivery trucks. There’s a lot of ways that we can share infrastructure in the transition, but effective planning and collaboration between all these entities is needed in order to make it happen.”
At the press event Monday, Gia Vacin, deputy director of zero-emission vehicle market development at the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, also expressed the importance of collaboration in helping meet the state’s charging infrastructure goals.
“It’s an immense lift to shift our entire transportation system from fossil fuels to renewable energy in the timeframe required to meet our health and climate goals and to do it equitably,” Vacin said. “But with our shared goals and our collaboration and the contributions from multiple parties, it is possible.”
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.