Friday, March 23, 2012

California Approves Statewide ‘Electric Expressway’

Published March 23, 2012

By Jeff Cobb

By executive order today, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced a $120 million settlement to go toward statewide infrastructure to help create an “Electric Expressway,” making cross-state travel feasible for electric vehicles, and augmenting the goal of 1.5 million zero emission vehicles on California's roads by 2025.

The settlement was with NRG Energy, Inc., and is to fund construction of a charging station network for Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs), that includes at least 200 public fast-charging stations and another 10,000 plug-in units at 1,000 locations across the state.

The governor’s office said the “settlement stems from California’s energy crisis,” and it is actually to resolve 10-year-old claims against Dynegy, the predecessor company to NRG Energy Inc., for costs of long-term power contracts signed in March 2001.

According to Jay Friedland, legislative director for Plug-In America, the settlement actually fixes issues going back to the bad old days when Enron, Dynegy and other energy companies were manipulating the system. He said the $120 million is not unlike a tobacco company settlement, albeit in the energy sector – in question was where to spend the money where it will do the most good, and spending on electrifying the whole state was decided upon.

"Plug In America has been working tirelessly for several years to create an Electric Expressway in California and will now see it become a reality," said Friedland who told us he's been working on this issue for 10 years himself. "We are extremely gratified to see Governor Brown's vision and commitment in this area."

The governor’s office said of the settlement money, $100 million will fund fast-charging stations and the installation of the plug-in units and electrical upgrades, at no cost to taxpayers. The remaining $20 million will be directed to ratepayer relief.

Further, the governor’s office said the charging stations funded by the settlement will be installed in the San Francisco Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Los Angeles Basin and San Diego County.

Initial roll-out plans are not set in stone, but Friedland said in order to see an “electric expressway” whereby a Nissan Leaf, for example, can travel from town to town, enough charging stations will need to be set up, with room for expansion as needed.

Friedland estimated the first phase of the plan could be underway by year’s end, and in the next 24-36 months many more chargers will be in place along major stretches of California's interstates, sub-arteries, and in metro areas, thus making feasible north-to-south, and east-to-west travel.

Odds are that not too many in-town gas stations will get chargers with point of sale capability, Friedland. Rather, he speculated, in-town charging may be at retail or rest areas “like a Starbucks or a Dunkin Donuts,” etc. With CHAdeMO level-3 fast charging, a Nissan Leaf can get about 80-percent recharged inside of 30 minutes. Shorter charge times could conceivably still supply enough current for a driver to get a remaining 10-20 miles home. The overarching plan calls also for level 2 and even level 1 chargers strategically placed.

Without giving as much detail in its statement today, the governor's office said essentially the same.

“This new infrastructure network is a breakthrough in encouraging consumer adoption of electric vehicles and will contribute significantly to achieving California’s clean car goals,” the governor's office said.

Furthermore, the network is in keeping with recently reported ambitious plans by the California Air Resourced Board to see ZEVs become one-out-of-seven vehicles sold in state, with plans to escalate their proliferation beyond to 2050, and the governor’s executive order sets the following targets:

• By 2015, all major cities in California will have adequate infrastructure and be “zero-emission vehicle ready”

• By 2020, the state will have established adequate infrastructure to support 1 million zero-emission vehicles in California

• By 2025, there will be 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California; and

• By 2050, virtually all personal transportation in the State will be based on zero-emission vehicles, and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector will be reduced by 80 percent below 1990 levels.

“This executive order strengthens California’s position as a national leader in zero-emission vehicles,” said Gov. Brown, “and the settlement will dramatically expand California's electric vehicle infrastructure, helping to clean our air and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

As might be expected, CARB Chair, Mary Nichols, praised the settlement agreement.

“California has the most aggressive clean transportation goals in the nation,” said Nichols. “The automakers are already building clean electric cars. This infrastructure infusion will give consumers the confidence to go out and buy them, which is what needs to happen for us to clean our air, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on imported oil.”


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