by Julia Pyper
October 09, 2018

While they make a lot of headlines and create a lot of hype, electric vehicles are still miles away from becoming mainstream. And so a series of recently announced policies and programs are looking to accelerate that process in the U.S.

To be sure, EV adoption in America is on the rise. The latest sales figures from the Electric Drive Transportation Association show that the number of plug-in vehicles sold from January through September 2018 is up 64 percent over the same period last year. Last month marks the 36th month of consecutive year-over-year sales gains for plug-in vehicles.

Still, the U.S. lags behind Europe and China on EV adoption, and EVs make up a small fraction of total vehicle sales. California, the nation’s leading EV market by a long shot, still has a long way to go to reach its goal of 5 million zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2030. And charging infrastructure remains a major hurdle.

“The world is moving to electrified transportation, but it’s not moving fast enough,” said Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board, on a press call last week. “We have the technology tools available, but as yet the market isn’t moving as quickly as we would like it to.”

So stakeholders aren’t sitting idle. Policymakers, utility regulators, automakers and other entities, in California and elsewhere, have taken several steps in recent weeks to grow the U.S. EV market. Here are 10 of the latest actions.

1) Three new EV coalitions and initiatives

A coalition of automakers, electricity providers, charging network companies, policymakers and nonprofits officially launched a new organization in California last week called Veloz, with the aim of marketing EVs to a wider audience.

Veloz, a nonprofit, seeks to accelerate “a virtuous cycle of desire, demand, more makes, models and charging stations, more investment, innovation and market growth,” according to a fact sheet. One of its first projects is dubbed Electric for All, a large multi-stakeholder and multimillion-dollar public awareness campaign in North America.

According to Mary Nichols, more than 50 percent of Californians know little to nothing about EVs. “Clearly the lack of awareness is a critical hurdle we have to overcome early on,” she said on a call with reporters.

Veloz represents a first-of-its kind, brand-neutral campaign, according to the organizers. Electrify America will provide $2 million for the campaign. Supporters include automakers General Motors and BMW, network providers EVgo and Greenlots, nonprofits Sierra Club and the World Resources Institute, all major California utilities, and multiple key Californian energy and environmental offices, among others.

The new campaign from Veloz comes on the heels of a new initiative named the 50x50 Commission, which is oriented around a set of policy and regulatory recommendations to reduce the energy used in transportation 50 percent by 2050. 

The recommendations are wide-ranging, from expanding biking options to EV incentives. The commission counts members from across the environmental, transportation and energy spaces, including the Edison Electric Institute, Audi, General Motors, Southern Company and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Separately, a coalition of EV stakeholders last month unveiled an innovative pathway for using carbon credit markets to improve EV charging infrastructure revenues and thus support continued EV sales growth.

The new method was pioneered by the Electric Vehicle Charging Carbon Coalition, which includes the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, the Connecticut Green Bank, Electrify America, EVgo, Exelon and Siemens. 

It operates by providing a blueprint to certify the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that result from EVs being powered by charging stations versus conventional vehicles using fossil fuels. “These reductions translate into carbon credits that can be sold to help improve current EV infrastructure revenues and make future investments more attractive,” according to a press release. Carbon credits will be independently certified by Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard Program and its third-party validation and verification body.

The newly developed Methodology for Electric Vehicle Charging Systems is outlined in a detailed report. Carbon credits from this new source will be available for sale in 2019 when the first inventories from Exelon, Electrify America and EVgo are offered. 

2) Electrify America announces $200 million ZEV investment in California

Electrify America, a company set up to promote EV adoption as part of the Volkswagen settlement, recently announced its next $200 million zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) investment plan for California. The Cycle 2 California ZEV Investment Plan covers a 30-month investment period, beginning in July 2019.

The central focus of Cycle 2 is on DC fast-charging within metro areas, where EV drivers are expected to charge most often. Electrify America will invest in nine metro areas, six of them from Cycle 1, with three new cities added under Cycle 2. The funding will also support charging for regional routes and strengthen highway networks. Consistent with guidance from the California Air Resources Board, Electrify America will strive to ensure that 35 percent of Cycle 2 investments are in low-income or disadvantaged communities.

The plan also includes investments for a comprehensive residential charging platform, bus and shuttle charging infrastructure, renewable energy generation for certain charging stations and infrastructure for autonomous electric vehicles. To help drive ZEV adoption, Electrify America will invest in additional education, awareness and outreach activities during Cycle 2. The company will continue to coordinate with other stakeholders on ZEV awareness initiatives, including nonprofit organizations like the above-mentioned Veloz.

Electrify America is required to invest $2 billion in EV infrastructure and other programming under the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” court settlement. California is budgeted to receive $800 million over four investment cycles. Other states will collectively receive $1.2 billion through 2026.

3) Audi launches the e-tron, plus Amazon, Arcadia and Electrify America partnerships

Audi last month unveiled its first all-electric SUV destined for the U.S. market, the Audi e-tron, which claims to beat Tesla on range. The new EV, with a price tag of around $75,000 before incentives, is the first of three battery-electric vehicles that Audi plans to debut by 2020.

In conjunction with the e-tron launch, Audi announced it’s also partnering with Amazon, Electrify America and Arcadia Power to facilitate access to charging and other services.

In a first for the giant e-commerce company, Amazon Home Service is collaborating with an automaker to deliver turnkey in-home charging. Amazon will offer Audi e-tron owners information on home charging equipment and pricing, plus the ability to book an electrician for installation. 

Through Electrify America, Audi is offering e-tron customers 1,000 kilowatt-hours of power over the course of four years. The Electrify America network is expected to include 500 fast-charging sites across 40 states. (Audi, which is a Volkswagen brand, was also involved with the VW diesel emissions scandal.)

Under the third partnership, Audi e-tron owners will be able to offset their home electricity consumption with renewable energy through Arcadia Power’s digital utility service. Participants will sign up with Arcadia, select a renewable energy project to support, and potentially save on their monthly electricity bill, depending on their project’s output.

4) California intensifies the Low Carbon Fuel Standard

CARB recently approved changes to the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) that are designed to make the program a more versatile, comprehensive tool in the fight against climate change. 

The LCFS is a cornerstone of California’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The standard currently requires a 10 percent reduction in the carbon intensity — determined by the amount of carbon emitted throughout a fuel’s entire life cycle — of California’s transportation fuels by 2020. Last year, the LCFS replaced more than 2 billion gallons of petroleum and natural gas with cleaner transportation fuels, such as hydrogen, electricity and biodiesel.

Last month, CARB broadened the LCFS to require a 20 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2030 — the most stringent requirement in the nation. CARB also amended the program to include a statewide Clean Fuels Reward program, which offers EV customers an incentive at the point of purchase. Other amendments provide additional “capacity-based” credits to infrastructure developers of DC fast-charging stations for plug-in electric vehicles.

“These amendments will take California’s climate fight up another notch,” said Nichols.

5) California proposes 100% zero-emission buses

During last month’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, the state of California, along with numerous other jurisdictions around the world, committed to shifting to zero-emission transit buses (ZEBs). Last month, staff at CARB presented a plan to do just that.

The proposal would require large transit fleet operators to have 25 percent of any new bus purchases be zero-emitting in 2023 and 100 percent of bus purchases be zero-emitting in 2029. Smaller transit fleets would have additional time to comply. Bike-sharing, car-sharing and vanpools can serve as alternative compliance pathways. In the nearer term, starting in 2020, conventional bus purchases will need to meet low-NOx emission standards and use renewable fuels.

The program would also offer incentives and credits under California’s LCFS. Staff said they expect cities will see monetary savings as a result of the ZEB plan. CARB will vote on whether to adopt the rule later this year.

6) CARB reaffirms clean car standards

As the Trump administration seeks to freeze federal clean car standards at lower levels, California air regulators reaffirmed their commitment to cleaner cars last month, a move expected to drive EV availability and adoption.

CARB voted unanimously to uphold standards that would require automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks by 2025, to 54.5 miles per gallon. A dozen other states have also adopted California’s rules.

Under President Obama, the standards were in alignment with federal regulations, but the Trump administration is in the process of reforming the rules (the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are currently taking comments). California and Washington are now set up for an ongoing fight over the future of clean car requirements. 

7) Gov. Brown signs multiple clean transportation bills

California Governor Jerry Brown signed multiple clean transportation bills into law during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco last month, many of which were signed aboard the Enhydra, a first-of-its kind plug-in hybrid electric ferry that will go into commercial operation in the San Francisco Bay.

Eight bills were signed on the ferry that aim to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector, which currently account for about 50 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions and about 80 percent of smog-forming pollutants. Legislation includes directing the state to develop emissions reduction targets for ride-hailing services, making permanent an existing agricultural worker clean vanpool program, and facilitating further growth of the used zero-emission vehicle market by opening carpool lanes to low-income drivers of used clean air vehicles.

Also that week, Gov. Brown signed legislation increasing penalties on polluting trucks and prohibiting homeowners' associations from unreasonably restricting an owner’s ability to install or use an electric vehicle time-of-use meter (see the full list here).

8) Duke Energy Florida to install 530 charging stations, study charging habits

Duke Energy announced last week it will install 530 EV charging stations in Florida under the Park and Plug pilot program, which will run through 2022.

Duke Energy selected EV charging solutions company NovaCharge to supply equipment, install the charging stations and integrate services for the pilot program. Duke is also working with stakeholders to select EV charging locations, including in multi-unit dwellings, workplaces and locations with broad public access. To ensure the benefits of clean electric transportation are available to all customers, 10 percent of charging stations will be installed in income-qualified communities.

Host sites are being selected through an application process. Selected host sites will work directly with NovaCharge to have the equipment installed.

In addition to the Park and Plug program, Duke Energy Florida recently launched the Charge Florida study to better understand EV charging habits and promote EV adoption. The three-year study will also provide insight into the impact of residential EV charging on the electric grid.

The study relies on data from approximately 200 Duke Energy Florida customer volunteers who drive electric vehicles. “Basic data such as the location, time frame and length of vehicle charging, and battery 'state-of charge' information will be compiled to produce a comprehensive dataset that will be used to plan for the integration of EV charging demand and to meet future needs,” according to a press statement. 

Charge Florida volunteers will receive exclusive access to FleetCarma C2, a device used to monitor vehicle charging and battery use. FleetCarma also offers an online platform to track vehicle stats, such as energy consumption and avoided emissions. Customers can leverage this data to improve their environmental performance.

In the second year of the program, Duke will encourage participants to modify their charging behaviors to reduce the impacts of EV charging on the grid. Volunteers will receive compensation for their participation, as well as incentives to encourage them to stay engaged with the program. 

As Duke seeks to expand clean transportation in Florida, it’s also increasing adoption of smarter, cleaner energy alternatives. The company is investing $6 billion in a multiyear grid modernization program. This includes installing new smart meters for customers, building or acquiring 700 megawatts of new solar power in the next four years, and making the grid more resistant to physical and cyber threats. 

9) Illinois regulators launch informational EV proceeding

Widespread EV adoption could bring Illinois up to $43 billion in benefits by 2050 through reduced utility bills, carbon pollution, and fuel and vehicle expenses, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission. EVs also have the ability to work with other distributed energy resources to benefit the electric grid.

For these reasons, the ICC has initiated a proceeding to solicit information and opinions from stakeholders on EVs as they relate to grid resiliency and energy efficiency.

The notice of inquiry is designed to educate the ICC on opportunities and challenges related to this emerging technology. The NOI proceeding is not a rulemaking, so no decision will be made as a result. But the findings may inform the basis for a rulemaking at a later date.

Illinois utilities Ameren and ComEd currently offer EV rate programs, but regulatory uncertainty has prevented utilities from playing a bigger role in the EV industry.

“It remains unclear how to efficiently integrate EVs into the current electric system, how to treat charging infrastructure from an ownership perspective, how to determine appropriate rate structures, and how to encourage efficient EV charging practices to support grid stability,” the ICC said in its recent announcement.

All comments are due by October 23. Reply comments are due by November 6, 2018. Instructions are available here.

10) PSEG seeks to invest $364 million in EV infrastructure

As part of Public Service Electric & Gas Co.’s $4.1 billion Clean Energy Future proposal, the New Jersey utility is looking to spend $364 million on an EV program. That includes around $261 million in investments and $103 million in program costs. 

The plan seeks to boost EV ownership by supporting the deployment of nearly 40,000 EV chargers. Most will be residential charging units, although the initiative also includes public DC fast-charging and special projects at airports and shipping ports. PSEG would also offer grants to help schools purchase electric buses.