The Climate Center released today a white paper assessing the status, progress, and benefits of electric vehicle (EV) adoption in Sonoma County. The paper also provides several recommendations to accelerate EV adoption as one of the best opportunities to reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions from transportation.

According to the paper, transportation is the largest and fastest growing source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Sonoma County, accounting for about 65 percent of total emissions in 2014. Nearly four out of five trips in Sonoma County are made by single occupant, fossil fuel powered automobiles. Approximately $850 million leaves the County annually to pay for the fossil fuel that powers Sonoma County vehicles.

Sonoma County EV sales by model

Sonoma County EV sales by model

“This report is important because it provides us and our partners with a path forward, some clear guidance on how to make a major dent in our massive carbon footprint from the transportation sector,” said Ann Hancock, Executive Director of The Climate Center. “We believe Sonoma County can serve as a model for rapid EV adoption. We’d like to help other communities do the same too,” she said.

Sonoma County is already a leader in the adoption of EVs such as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt. As of July, more than 1,800 of these quiet, zero-emission cars are already zooming along county roadways. That’s an increase of 300 in just three months, which means that every 7 hours, a new EV hits the road. More than half of all EVs in the county were sold in 2014 alone.

“The recent pace of adoption is what’s most exciting here,” said Doron Amiran, EV Program Manager for The Climate Center. “If Sonoma County can apply the recommendations endorsed in this paper, we believe we’ll far exceed the State’s goal to have what would amount to 16,000 electric cars and vans on the road in Sonoma County by 2023. That would equate to about 10% of new cars sold, but we believe we can and should do much better than that. And this will be great news for the climate, for our economy, and for local drivers.”

EVs emit zero carbon. However, depending upon where the electricity to charge those vehicles is sourced, EVs still carry a carbon footprint that ranges in size. Because Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) sources electricity locally from a higher portfolio of renewable sources, the environmental benefits of EV driving in Sonoma County are even greater. Furthermore, charging those vehicles with EverGreen, SCP’s 100 percent green electricity option, further reduces greenhouse gases.

Driving EVs also makes economic sense. According to the paper, electric vehicle costs are competitive with the life cycle costs of gasoline vehicles, and in some cases are lower. “It costs me only about half as much to run my Leaf as it would a gas-powered Prius” said Carl Mears, climate scientist and board member for The Climate Center. “And besides, it’s the quickest car I’ve ever owned.”

The paper also states that EV driving is significantly enhanced by workplace charging. Employees who have access to workplace charging are 20 times more likely to drive an EV compared with employees who do not have access to workplace charging. Nearly half of all Leaf and Volt owners have access to workplace chargers.

“Labcon installed two double outlet, solar-powered, EV charging stations in 2013 and has seen a very positive response from both employees and visitors,” said Mark Gmelin, Engineer and Sustainability Coordinator at Labcon North America. “We’ve gone from one to three full-time EV drivers plus one part-timer in the first year. Guests are happy to see a visible affirmation of our environmental commitments as they enter the building. It’s part of our ‘do the right thing’ attitude.”

The white paper advances four recommendations: 1) Advocate for policies and funding, especially at the state level, to accelerate EV use, 2) Expand EV charging, especially at workplaces, multi-family units, and along main transportation corridors, 3) Develop and implement an EV awareness campaign, 4) Develop EV charging infrastructure through increased coordination.

“We look forward to working with the community, government and business leaders to accelerate this transition,” said Hancock. “With battery prices dropping, infrastructure expanding, new and exciting vehicles coming to market, and a wicked zoom factor, there is hardly a reason not to make your next purchase an EV.”

Read The Climate Center’s complete EV white paper online at: https://theclimatecenter.org/electric-vehicles-in-sonoma-county/.

Press Release