Key Considerations for Zero-Emission Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure in California
Key Considerations for Zero-Emission Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure in California

California is at the forefront of adopting a more sustainable transportation system, with a strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality. A critical aspect of this effort is the widespread adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and electric vehicles (EVs). Critically, this transition relies heavily on the availability and accessibility of robust charging infrastructure. To facilitate California’s goal of getting 1.5 million ZEVs on California roads by 2025, industry experts and policymakers are currently discussing and developing the path forward for ZEVs and charging infrastructure.

At the Infraday California conference on April 18, 2023, Patrick Harder, Nossaman Partner and Chair of its Infrastructure Practice Group, moderated a panel discussing emerging issues surrounding ZEVs and charging infrastructure in California.  The panel included Akiko Yamagami (Manager, Transportation Planning, LA Metro), Alycia Gilde (National Manager for ZEV Partnerships and Engagement, U.S. Department of Energy), Danielle Weizman (Business Development Manager - Clean Transportation, San Diego Gas & Electric), and Jason Rondou (Director, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power).

The panel covered issues critical to the adoption of clean vehicles and development of charging infrastructure in California.  The panel discussed the creation of new government programs, coordinating public and private sector investmentsand addressing the various challenges related to achieving ZEV and charging infrastructure goals within the ambitious timeline announced by state and federal leaders.  Key points discussed include:

Path Forward for Clean Commercial Vehicles

  • Charging infrastructure is the largest hurdle to the commercial use of ZEVs. In the goods movement sector, government agencies have struggled to find publicly accessible land for heavy-duty truck charging.
  • Public agencies have determined that the effective use of private land and public-private partnerships will be the key to ensuring that charging infrastructure for commercial vehicles is adequate in terms of both capacity and location.

Equitable Distribution to Underserved Communities

  • Government programs must ensure that the needs of underserved communities are addressed as we migrate to a future of ZEVs. Potential plans include setting equitable rate structures for charging vehicles and providing additional incentives for the installation of charging infrastructure in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
  • Clean energy plans must be tailored to meet regional needs. Equitable buildouts of ZEV infrastructure will need to first address local challenges.  Specifically, planning activities will need to address access to electricity and the development of the power grid before ZEV infrastructure is developed and implemented.

Addressing Bottlenecks in ZEV Deployment

  • To preempt bottlenecks in the transition to ZEVs, public agencies must identify and utilize opportunities to collaborate with other stakeholders, including regulated utilities, governmental agencies at every level, and the private sector. This will also facilitate the implementation of a programmatic approach that incorporates and addresses the concerns of all stakeholders.
  • Technological advancements can also help to avoid potential bottlenecks in the ZEV deployment process, including the development of increasingly efficient and cost-effective charging solutions and improvement of battery technology to increase the range and performance of ZEVs.

In the regulatory space, policymakers are considering increasingly stringent environmental standards aimed at facilitating the shift towards clean energy. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced new proposed rules targeted at reducing pollution from vehicular tailpipes. Under the proposed standards for light and medium-duty vehicles, 67% of new light-duty passenger vehicles sales (e.g., sedans, pickup trucks) and all new medium-duty trucks sales (e.g., delivery vans) will be ZEVs by the 2032. Under the accompanying proposed standards for heavy-duty vehicles, half of new buses and a quarter of new heavy-duty trucks sold, including semi-trailer trucks, will be ZEVs by 2032.  Together, the two proposed rules would eliminate enough CO2 emissions from the atmosphere to equal the amount generated over two years by all sectors of the United States economy.

As highlighted by the Infraday California panel discussion on ZEVs and charging infrastructure, industry experts are progressing plans to achieve clean transportation across the state.  Federal regulators like the EPA are also proposing increasingly rigorous standards to help push the needle towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change.  As we continue to move towards clean transportation, tracking and progressing developments like these will be crucial to achieving climate goals and helping pave the way for a more sustainable future.

  • Patrick D. Harder

    Patrick Harder, chair of Nossaman's Infrastructure Group, is widely known for leadership in the field of public-private partnerships (P3s) and other innovative project delivery methods such as design-build and construction ...

  • Alyn  Shen

    Alyn Shen is an infrastructure attorney with substantial experience in advising clients through the project delivery process, including procurement procedures, drafting contract and procurement documents, and conducting ...

Nossaman’s 30-plus infrastructure attorneys offer clients, colleagues, strategic partners and industry media a wealth of practical experience, insider insight and thoughtful analysis here on Infra Insight. We blog about what we know best, from industry-leading procurements to local and national policy developments that affect the market and our clients.

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