New study reveals electric cars really are greener than fossil fuel vehicles

By Adam Vaughan, New Scientist


Highlights

A new comprehensive study finds that electric cars are much more climate-friendly than their gas and diesel counterparts.

Florian Knobloch at Radboud University in the Netherlands and his colleagues looked at the average emissions across many classes of car and the projected carbon emissions generated on average over a car’s lifetime, including during its production, while it is being driven and when it is destroyed, for all the conventional and electric cars sold in 59 regions across the world in 2015. These represent 95 percent of the world’s current road traffic. Study findings:

  • Electric vehicles already have lower net carbon emissions in 53 of those 59 regions, making the case for phasing out fossil fuel-powered vehicles as soon as possible 
  • Only in heavily coal-dependent countries, such as India and Poland, are electric vehicle emissions worse than those of fossil fuel-powered cars
  • Many countries’ electricity supplies have become steadily cleaner in the past five years, making electric cars cleaner too, and this trend will continue as grids decarbonize further
  • The same is true for heat pumps, making the case for phasing out natural gas space and water heating

Click here for the Abstract from Nature.com.


The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign includes supporting clean mobility, including a phase-out of all gas-powered vehicles.


Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2238118-electric-cars-really-are-a-greener-option-than-fossil-fuel-vehicles/

Electric vehicles are the future – economics, climate change, and public health require it

by Jock Gilchrist and Buddy Burch

Of all the problems we face in the wake of COVID-19, the slowdown of China’s EV manufacturing may not seem that important. However, this slowdown comes at a particularly bad time– when scientists are realizing just how deadly fossil fuel pollution actually is in the face of the pandemic. This realization drives home just how important vehicle electrification is for solving multiple problems that we face today. Carbon emissions, air pollution and the associated inequitable public health outcomes, and lost economic productivity can all be improved as Electric Vehicles (EVs) become more mainstream – especially when combined with a renewably powered grid.

Despite the promise of EVs, some say that EVs are too expensive and just as polluting as internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. We dug into the latest numbers to assess these claims. The data suggests that there’s good reason to be bullish on EVs.

A common criticism of EVs is that they are costlier than ICE vehicles. A snapshot of sticker prices today confirms this. But what that snapshot leaves out is the rapidly declining price tag of EVs over the last 10 years. Battery price largely drives EV cost. In 2010, batteries averaged $1,100 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Now, they cost $156/kWh. That’s an 87% reduction in less than a decade – a telltale sign of a disruptive, exponentially growing technology.

Cost parity – the critical moment when EV prices shrink to that of ICE vehicles – is approaching quickly. Reports suggest cost parity will be achieved when batteries cost about $100/kWh. Originally, Bloomberg projected this price point would arrive in 2026 – they later revised it to 2024. Deloitte says 2022. 

Regardless of exactly when batteries dip below the $100/kWh threshold, they are becoming more affordable – fast. When you consider that EVs cost less than half as much to own and maintain than ICE vehicles, the lifetime cost analysis becomes even more compelling.

Price parity and cheaper maintenance do not translate to affordability for everyone, though. Political leaders have responded to concerns from low-income communities with cash subsidies to purchase EVs. A growing used-EV market also enhances its affordability.

Some also claim that EVs are just as dirty as fossil-fuel-powered cars. According to this argument, even though EVs do not use polluting gasoline, they charge from a grid powered largely by polluting fossil fuel. The Union of Concerned Scientists showed, however, the opposite to be true. In 70% of the country, EVs pollute less than an ICE car that gets 50 mpg (and most ICE cars on the road today are nowhere near that efficient).

In states with more clean energy on their grid-like New York, an EV achieves the equivalent of 135 mpg. As America’s grid continues to incorporate more renewable energy, those numbers will only increase.

In some cities, the combination of EVs and renewable energy can’t come fast enough. One study estimated that while the global coronavirus death toll is around 8,000, the improved air quality due to reduced economic activity has saved 77,000 lives in China alone.

EVs are more energy-intensive to produce than ICE cars, leading to higher manufacturing-associated emissions. But given the emissions advantage that comes from driving cleaner, EVs negate their production footprint within about a year of driving.

While the economics appear supportive, the transportation conversation isn’t just about numbers. It’s also about public health, climate change, and leaving a habitable planet for future generations.

A study published in Environment International estimated the annual cost to the US healthcare system attributable to fossil fuel pollution between $362 billion and $887 billion. And those enormous financial and health costs are predominantly borne by children and poor and low-income communities of color. Phasing out ICE vehicles would boost the economy and improve public health in one fell swoop.

Climate science is also unequivocal about transitioning away from fossil fuels if we are to avoid 2C of warming (at least). According to an article in Science, “by 2040, oil will be about to exit the global energy mix.” The dwindling performance of oil and gas stocks signals a collective recognition that the industry’s time is limited. This requires that we wean ourselves off oil soon – not at an ambiguous point in the future.

EVs are an imperfect technology. We still face challenges with battery recycling, mineral sourcing, and total EV cost. Legislative and technological solutions to these challenges are in the pipeline. EVs also need not be the only answer to our problems. Expanded and electrified public transit, along with a decarbonized grid, can play a role. Micromobility and tiny transit can play a role. Rising popular support behind a Green New Deal and other environmentally friendly, job-creating endeavors make high-quality public and shared transit more likely.

These solutions lead to cleaner air, less traffic, drastically reduced carbon emissions, and healthier communities. To get to a future that works better for all of us, we must relinquish status quo narratives that lock the polluted present in place. If we cooperate early, prioritize equity, and encourage the clean energy economy, the road ahead looks promising.

An economic crash will slow down the electric vehicle revolution … but not for long

by Laura Millan Lombrana, Jess Shankleman, and Akshat Rathi, Bloomberg Green


Highlights:

Due to the current pandemic of COVID-19, vehicle sales are expected to plummet, effecting the growth of electric vehicles (EVs)  for consumers.

  • Vehicle sales have dropped 44% in China during January when the virus began to spread globally, but sales in Europe are still expected to grow 50%
  • Volkswagon and Ford are both releasing new EV models later in the year, signifying that car manufacturers are still invested in expanding the market
  • Though oil prices will not stay cheap for long, the low cost of gas may encourage people to purchase internal combustion engine cars. However, many cities and countries are prioritizing clean vehicles to combat air pollution and will encourage more electric vehicle use
  • In China, the introduction of subsidies for EVs led to a doubling of sales in 2018 and EV sales are still increasing at double-digit rates
  • Electric vehicles are considered more costly but as battery prices fall, the price of EVs will drop over time

Phasing out gas-powered vehicles is a key component of The Climate Center’s clean mobility work.


Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-17/an-economic-crash-will-slow-down-the-electric-vehicle-revolution-but-not-for-long

Legislative Update for March 12, 2020

Below are several selected upcoming committee hearings and several, but not all, of the key bills we are tracking. For a complete list of the 44 bills we are currently tracking in 2020, click HERE. Please send updates, suggestions, corrections to info[at]cleanpowerexchange.org. Our next update will be published here on March 26.

SPECIAL NOTE: Due to the Corona Virus situation, legislative hearings are being canceled. Please check committee websites for latest updates.

Key Committees and Committee Hearings
Assembly Bills

AB 56 (Garcia) OPPOSE – This holdover bill from 2019 would empower the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to order energy procurement based on real or perceived shortcomings in the Integrated Resource Plans submitted by Investor Owned Utilities, Direct Access providers, and CCAs. The bill will allow the CPUC to require procurement on any perceived deficiency that may be 12 years in the future. This makes no sense, given that so much lead time would allow a CCA to address any potential problem. This bill needlessly expands the CPUC energy procurement ordering authority and forces the State Treasurer’s Office to take on unwanted energy procurement responsibilities. This bill will financially harm ratepayers by saddling them with expensive and unnecessary long-term energy contracts, compromise local efforts to reach higher greenhouse gas reduction goals, and strip away local energy decision making from 170 cities and counties that are currently serving more than 10 million people through Community Choice Energy. Read the Center’s July 2019 Letter of Opposition, which remains relevant.

STATUS: In the Senate Energy Committee. No activity since 2019.

AB 235 (Mayes) WATCH – This 2019 holdover bill would allow PG&E to issue bonds to cover 2017, 2018 wildfire liabilities that ratepayers could ultimately have to pay for, and allows the CPUC to arbitrarily set a limit on the amount a transmission & distribution utility must pay as a result of catastrophic wildfire that may have been the result of their infrastructure.

STATUS: In the Senate Committee process. No activity since 2019.

AB 345 (Muratsuchi) SUPPORT – This bill will, if enacted, establish regulations to protect public health and safety near oil and gas extraction facilities,  including a minimum setback distance between oil and gas activities and sensitive receptors such as schools, childcare facilities, playgrounds, residences, hospitals, and health clinics. See The Climate Center’s Letter of Support.

STATUS: In the Senate. Read first time. Sent to the Senate Rules Committee for assignment to a policy committee.

AB 1839 (Bonta) WATCH – The “Green New Deal” bill. Introduced on January 6, this bill would create the California Green New Deal Council with a specified membership appointed by the Governor. The bill would require the California Green New Deal Council to submit a specified report to the Legislature no later than January 1, 2022. So far the plan is scant on specifics including how goals will be met or how much the State will pay to meet those goals.

STATUS: Introduced in January 6. No committee assignment yet. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.  The Climate Center is still assessing the bill and has not yet taken a position.

AB 1847 (Levine) WATCH – This bill would authorize the CPUC (contingent on the Commission finding that an electrical corporation is not complying with State law, rules, or regulations) to appoint a public administrator to the electrical corporation for a period not to exceed 180 days. The bill would vest the public administrator with oversight authority over the electrical corporation’s activities that impact public safety. See the bill author’s factsheet.

STATUS: In the Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee. No hearing date set.

AB 2689 (Kalra) WATCH – This bill updates Investor-Owned Utility (IOU) confidentiality provisions to allow a broader range of market experts to participate in complex IOU cost recovery proceedings and supports California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) oversight to protect customers from unreasonable or unjustified IOU rate increases. California IOU electric generation rates have increased 49% since 2013. Between 2008 and 2018, IOU customer rates doubled from $29.3 billion to $59.3 billion per year. AB 2689 would result in greater IOU accountability and improved consumer protection, safety, and affordability. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill.

STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.

AB 2789 (Kamlager) WATCH – This bill would appropriate $1,500,000 and require the CPUC, in consultation with the CA Energy Commission, to request the California Council on Science and Technology to undertake and complete a study, as specified, relative to electrical grid outages and cost avoidance resulting from deployment of eligible renewable energy resources, battery storage systems, and demand response technologies. The bill would require the PUC to report the results of the study to the Legislature by January 1, 2022.

STATUS: Set for a hearing on March 25 in the Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee

AB 3014 (Muratsuchi) WATCH – This bill evolves the state’s resource adequacy (RA) program to improve the reliability of California electric supply. Specifically, this bill creates the Central Reliability Authority (CRA), a non-profit public benefit corporation, to purchase residual RA needed to meet state requirements while still allowing load-serving entities (LSEs), such as Community Choice Agencies (CCAs), to maintain their procurement autonomy. The newly created CRA also reduces costly RA purchases currently undertaken by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and greatly enhances the RA market. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill.

STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.

AB 3021 (Ting) – This bill would appropriate $300,000,000 per fiscal year in the 2020–21, 2021–22, and 2022–23 fiscal years from the General Fund to the California Energy Commission to administer a program to provide resiliency grant funding and technical assistance to local educational agencies for the installation of energy storage systems.

STATUS: Double-referred to Education and Natural Resources committees.

AB 3251 (Bauer-Kahan) WATCH – This bill would require that charging of energy storage systems be treated as load in calculations for demand response programs, and that capacity from energy storage systems installed on the customer side of the meter be allowed to be aggregated for purposes of determining resource adequacy capacity; and electricity exported to the grid from the customer side of the meter be allowed to count toward the capacity obligations of load-serving entities.

STATUS: In Assembly, referred to Asm Energy Committee. Set for hearing on March 25.

Senate Bills

SB 45 (Allen, et al) SUPPORT – Dubbed the “Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020.” This is a proposed $5.51 billion general obligation bond to be placed on the November 3, 2020 statewide general election. Specifically, $570 million will be made available for climate resiliency initiatives including microgrids, distributed generation, storage systems, in-home backup power, and community resiliency centers such as cooling centers, clean air centers, hydration stations, and emergency shelters. The bill includes a provision for grants to local agencies, state agencies, special districts, joint powers authorities, tribes, and vulnerable populations to incentivize installation of microgrids, distributed generation and storage systems, or in-home backup power systems, powered by clean energy systems that provide continuity of electrical service in response to, or anticipation of, disruption due to public safety power shutoffs, wildfire, or other disaster.

STATUS: Passed out of Senate, in the Assembly. Held at the desk.

SB 350 (Hertzberg) OPPOSE – This bill would “authorize the CPUC to consider a multiyear centralized resource adequacy mechanism,” meaning, a central buyer, which would encroach on CCA statutory authority on procurement autonomy. This bill is a tandem bill with AB 56.

STATUS: In the Assembly committee process. No activity since 2019.

SB 378 (Wiener) WATCH – Would establish customer and local government protections related to Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) incidents. Specifically, the bill requires IOUs to provide annual reports to the Wildfire Safety Division within the CPUC on the condition of their electrical equipment and provide maintenance logs to assess fire safety risk. The bill also requires the CPUC to develop procedures for consumers and local governments to recover costs from IOUs accrued during PSPS events, improves PSPS notification procedures, and makes IOUs subject to civil fines if the CPUC determines that the IOU failed to act in a reasonable and prudent manner.

STATUS: Voted out of Sen. Approps Committee on Jan. 23. Heard on Assembly floor January 27, but being held pending committee referral.

SB 702 (Hill) – This bill would amend section 399.13 of the Public Utilities Code to authorize a retail seller of electricity to rely on contracts of 10 years or more in duration or ownership agreements entered into directly by its end-use customer for eligible renewable energy resources located on the customer side of the meter to satisfy the portion of the 65% requirement attributable to the retail sales of that end-use customer.

STATUS: Out of the Senate as of January 23. Now in Assembly. Read first time. Held pending committee referral.

SB 774 (Stern) WATCH – SB 774 would require IOUs to collaborate with the State’s Office of Emergency of Services and others to identify where back-up electricity sources may provide increased electrical distribution grid resiliency and would allow the IOUs to file applications with the CPUC to invest in, and deploy, microgrids to increase resiliency. Concerns focus on too much control being placed in the hands of the IOUs over microgrid development when other LSEs and stakeholders can and should play a role.

STATUS: In the Assembly committee process with no committee assignment and no hearing date.

SB-801 (Glazer, McGuire) – Electrical corporations: wildfire mitigation plans: de-energization: public safety protocol. This bill would require an electrical corporation to deploy backup electrical resources or provide financial assistance for backup electrical resources to a customer receiving a medical baseline allowance if the customer meets those conditions.

STATUS: In the Senate Energy Committee set for March 17 hearing. Removed from agenda.

SB 917 (Wiener) WATCH – This bill renames the California Consumer Energy and Conservation Financing Authority and via eminent domain takes control of PG&E to create the Northern California Energy Utility District and a public benefit corporation, Northern California Energy Utility Services, to carry out day to day operations. The key provision of the bill that is relevant to Community Choice Energy is: “10623: The authority of a community choice aggregator to provide electric service within the service territory of the district shall remain as if the district were an electrical corporation.”

STATUS: On February 12, triple-referred to Senate Energy, Govt & Finance, and Judiciary Committees.

SB 947 (Dodd) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Public Utilities Commission to evaluate financial performance-based incentives and performance-based metric tracking to identify mechanisms that may serve to better align electrical corporation operations, expenditures, and investments with public benefit goals.

STATUS: Hearing set for March 17 in Senate Energy Committee  Postponed due to Corona Virus.

SB 1215 (Stern) – SB 1215, the “California Emergency Services Act” establishes the Office of Emergency Services in the office of the Governor and provides that the office is responsible for the state’s emergency and disaster response services for natural, technological, or manmade disasters and emergencies.

STATUS: In Senate, double-referred to the Governmental Organization and Energy Committees.

SB 1240 (Skinner) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Independent System Operator, to identify and evaluate options for transforming the electrical corporations’ (Investor Owned Utilities’) distribution grids into more open access platforms that would allow local governments and other third parties to participate more easily in grid activities, as provided. The bill would require the commission to update the identification and evaluation at least once every two years. The bill would require the commission, beginning January 1, 2022, and biennially thereafter, to submit to the Legislature a report on the identification and evaluation of options. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog in this edition of e-news.

STATUS: In Senate – referred to Senate Energy Committee. Scheduled for a hearing on March 31.

SB 1258 (Stern) WATCH – Titled the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act, this bill would enact the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act to require the California Infrastructure Bank (IBank), in consultation with specified agencies to administer the Climate Catalyst Revolving Fund, which the bill would establish to provide financial assistance to eligible climate catalyst projects.

STATUS: Set for a hearing in the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee on March 30.

SB 1314 (Dodd) SUPPORT – SB 1314, the Community Energy Resilience Act of 2020, would require the Strategic Growth Council to develop and implement a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans. The bill would set forth guiding principles for plan development, including equitable access to reliable energy, as provided, and integration with other existing local planning documents. The bill would require a plan to, among other things, ensure a reliable electricity supply is maintained at critical facilities and identify areas most likely to experience a loss of electrical service. The bill would require the council to establish a stakeholder review board to provide statewide oversight for purposes of the grant program. The bill would require a local government, as a condition of receiving grant funding, to submit its plan and a report of project expenditures to the stakeholder review board within six months of completing the plan. The bill would require the stakeholder review board to annually report specified information about the grant program to the Legislature. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog in this edition of e-news.

STATUS: Double-referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committees. It is calendared for the Natural Resources Committee on April 14; Energy Committee, April 21.

Washington State considers banning gas cars

By Sophie Bethune, American Psychological Association


Highlights:

Washington State considers banning internal combustion engine (“ICE”) vehicles by 2030.

  • The concept has been introduced in various countries such as Norway, the UK, and Denmark in efforts to lessen transportation emissions
  • The Washington bill, HB 2515, would ban the sale of new ICE cars by 2030, including hybrid vehicles
  • The bill was introduced after the legislative period ended, thereby missing the cut-off date for a vote, but still has momentum
  • Rural conservative leaders of the state have expressed opposition to the bill, citing lack of Electric Vehicle infrastructure, short battery range, and costs
  • Groups that are financially backed by fossil fuel companies– such as the Western States Petroleum Association and American Energy Alliance– oppose the bill

Transitioning from internal combustion engine cars to electric vehicles is a key component of The Climate Center’s clean mobility work in California.


Read More: https://www.eenews.net/stories/1062345205

Electric dream: Britain to ban new petrol and hybrid cars from 2035

by Kylie MacLellan, Reuters


Highlights:

Following a growing trend in Europe, Britain is the next country to announce the phase-out of internal combustion engine cars within the next 15 years. This includes all diesel, petrol, and hybrid vehicles. 

  • Though traditional cars make up 90% of new vehicle sales in Britain, the government is investing over $3 million USD in electric vehicle infrastructure
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced the phase-out of all coal plants by 2024

Transitioning from internal combustion engine cars to electric vehicles is a key component of The Climate Center’s sustainable mobility work.


Read More: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-accord/electric-future-britain-to-ban-new-petrol-and-hybrid-cars-from-2035-idUSKBN1ZX2RY

GM investing billions in Michigan plant to produce electric trucks, SUVs

by Zack Budryk, The Hill


Highlights:

  • General Motors (GM) hopes to revive the Michigan auto manufacturing industry by investing $2 billion in their Detroit plant. This location will be used to manufacturing their new all electric truck starting in 2021.
  • GM claims the opening of the plant will create over 2,000 new manufacturing jobs in the Detroit area. 

Transitioning from internal combustion engine cars to electric vehicles is a key component of The Climate Center’s sustainable mobility work.


Read More: https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/480063-gm-investing-billions-in-michigan-plant-to-produce-electric-trucks

Washington State looks to a ban on new gas vehicles

by Danny Westneat, Seattle Times


Highlights:

The idea of banning new gas cars, formerly seen as too aggressive and radical, is picking up steam in Washington state:

  • Ten Washington legislators introduced House Bill 2515, which aims to ban the registration of any new gas-powered passenger or light-duty trucks, starting ten years from now, in 2030
  • The bill excludes emergency vehicles and equipment over 10,000 lbs
  • HB 2515  allows the reselling of older model gas powered vehicles in 2030 and after

Transitioning from internal combustion engine cars to electric vehicles is a key component of The Climate Center’s sustainable mobility work.


Read more: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/banning-gas-cars-its-a-fringe-crazy-bill-no-longer/

Gov. Newsom should invest in clean transportation. It will make California healthier

by Bill Magavern, CalMatters


Highlights:

  • Governor Gavin Newsom should cut diesel pollution as fast as possible
  • Even though California is leading the nation in the advancement of clean transportation technologies, cars account for the largest greenhouse gas emissions
  • Solutions to the California emissions problem include: deployment of more EVs, more pedestrian and bike paths in cities, and other clean mobility measures

Transitioning from internal combustion engine cars to electric vehicles is a key component of The Climate Center’s sustainable mobility work.


Read more: https://calmatters.org/commentary/electric-vehicles-2/

Of EVs and Redtails: a climate-friendly I-5 journey

By Ellie Cohen

As the great-horned owl hooted in the pre-dawn darkness, we packed up our fully charged 2019 Nissan Leaf SV Plus (180 freeway miles per charge) and began our journey south (395 miles south!). Feeling like pioneers of the past, Ann, Amanda and I were prepared.

The week before we’d downloaded the latest PlugShare app. Amanda mapped out where all the CHAdeMO fast chargers* were and calculated how far we could get on each leg to avoid range anxiety but still make it in a reasonable amount of time. We figured that a “normal” drive down to Los Angeles from the North Bay takes about six hours so driving an electric vehicle (EV) would take about nine.

We avoided the morning rush hour traffic by leaving early and reached I-5 as the sun was rising. It was a beautiful, cold January morning and we were hopeful. Before we knew it, we were at our first charging stop, in Santa Nella (124 miles from our start with 33% left on the battery). Using our PlugShare app, we confirmed that the charger had been used recently so, we assumed, it would be working today.

Alas, we pulled up to the Best Western Anderson (next door to the famous purveyor of pea soup and other fine highway foods), and found an ancient looking, and sadly, broken EVgo charger (photo- still believing it was functional!). After spending about 45 minutes trying to make it work (which included making several phone calls to the 800 number on the charger that only yielded endless busy signals, and after engaging with the hotel staff hoping they could make it work but to no avail), we decided to try another charger.

Guided by PlugShare, we simply crossed the freeway and as if entering a futuristic Emerald City, found a row of modern chargers at a Valero gas station (yes, the despised company from Texas that invested millions in California to undo our climate protection laws). There was a single Chargepoint CHAdeMo fast charger that we could use. Across the vast asphalt parking lot, were another 12 gleaming Tesla chargers, whose connectors were cleverly designed for just that, Teslas alone. If only….

Nonetheless, Ann whipped out her Chargepoint card, miraculously set up some time ago with her credit card as this was not something we had planned for. We giddily swiped the card, plugged in the charger, and the blue dashboard indicator lights lit up. It worked (photo- happy and self-assured)! We took a walk, grabbed some coffee, and had a delicious burrito breakfast at a taco truck when Ann was notified on her phone that the charge was complete. One hour and we were fully charged!

We were feeling very confident as we embarked on our next leg. Per our carefully laid out plan, we knew we’d have to charge once more before heading up the Grapevine then down into San Fernando Valley. Our destination was Studio City where we would be staying for five days in Los Angeles, visiting climate and community leaders for insights about our Climate-Safe California campaign for rapid decarbonization.

We were satiated and happy, planning out our upcoming meetings, sharing personal stories, counting an unbelievable 23 total Amazon Prime trucks that day (photo: doctored truck message**), and enjoying each other’s company.

We were not paying attention to our speed.

Now, if you’ve ever driven down I-5, you’d know that the speed limit is 70 but most travel at an average of over 80 miles per hour. The thing about electric cars is that once you start traveling over a certain speed, the remaining battery power can drop quickly and precipitously. At some point during our exuberant conversation, we glanced at our dashboard to check how much battery power we had left.

The mood turned serious. We were down to 36 miles with 34 miles to go. Uh oh…

The next closest CHAdeMO fast charger was 14 miles away but it was an EVGo at a hotel, with no recent users per PlugShare. It did not bode well based on our earlier experience. Sure enough, the outdated-looking charger was not functional. We called the 800 number again but to no avail.

Now we had to decide what to do. We could try for the next CHAdeMO charger but we’d have to drive under 55 miles per hour to hopefully make it or, we could use a trickle charge, regular outlet at the hotel. We decided we should try to add 5% to the battery and then we’d venture south. The front desk attendant was kind enough but at the deserted hotel, seemed a bit concerned about allowing us to plug in inside. We were fortunate to find an outdoor 3-pronged outlet. We plugged in. An hour later, we had only 1% more! We waited another 45 minutes, the percentage reading was the same but we decided to head south.

The next 60 minutes of driving were filled with range angst underlying quiet conversation. Miraculously, around five miles before Route 43 towards Taft (southwest of Bakersfield) where PlugShare indicated the next CHAdeMO charger was located, our remaining mileage started to go up in the car. Another fascinating aspect of EVs is that when you travel downhill or brake, the engine can regenerate energy into the battery! Phew…

There we found, across the lot from even more Tesla charging stations, eight Electrify America chargers (infrastructure owned by Volkswagon and apparently constructed as part of their Dieselgate settlement). Seven of the eight chargers were CCS, usable by many brands of EVs, but not the Nissan Leaf.

One charger was all we needed and there was one CHAdeMO. The sun was starting to set. It was hard to read the screen. Another uh oh…the screen was only showing computer code. It was getting cold. We called the 800 number. Miraculously, a lovely, live human being answered. We provided the serial number of that particular charger and after two lengthy reboots, the screen was up and the charger was humming. We were ecstatic!

Tired and relieved, we sat indoors at an adjacent food mart, charging our cell phones, snacking and listening to country music piped in from the local radio station. Suddenly, breaking through the din of the soft drink refrigerators, we heard someone speaking about climate change. It was a “Tom Steyer for President” ad. No escaping the campaign even here in the southern reaches of the Tulare Basin!

Since the battery was quite low at this point (~ 7% charge remaining), it took another 1.5 hours even with the fast charger to become almost full. The last hundred miles were thankfully uneventful as we cautiously climbed the Grapevine, drove over Tejon Pass (4,160’ elevation) and cruised down into Los Angeles County, completing our more than 12 hour journey with a delicious hot meal in Studio City.

Our days in LA were filled meeting with a dozen inspiring and accomplished civic leaders (photo- after visiting partners at the LA Cleantech Incubator).

On the last night, we planned our drive home.

In just over nine hours, we were back in the North Bay, this time having counted many fewer Amazon Prime trucks, but an impressive 24 Red-tailed Hawks along I-5 (maybe due to the winter storm that had blown through the night before). We had already begun planning our next trip—likely driving a Tesla or maybe even a Bolt instead—and planning out part of our campaign, to expand clean energy EV infrastructure for all!

*There are 3 major types of EV fast chargers: Tesla, CCS and CHAdeMO. CCS is the most common in Europe for a wide range of makes. CHAdeMO is most common in Japan. Read more here.

**Consumption-based emissions, the full life-cycle emissions embedded in goods, foods, travel and services from out-of-boundary locations- are most often not counted in greenhouse gas emissions inventories. In Marin County alone, these are estimated to account for 3x more emissions than tracked emissions. Learn more here and here.