ZEV Readiness Part I: San Diego Action Plan for Electric Vehicles

Because 1.5 million zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) need to be on California roads by 2025– in keeping with Governor Brown’s 2012 executive order– and ZEVs will need to account for 15% of new cars sold, city and county agencies are starting to incorporate electric vehicle readiness programs in their long-term planning. The 2015 San Diego County action plan, SD Forward, includes a Regional Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Readiness Plan to evaluate current electric vehicle deployment and infrastructure in the county, barriers and means to improve electric vehicle adoption. As might be expected from a city that had the first large-scale electric vehicle car sharing program and continues to be a national leader on electric vehicle deployment and infrastructure expansion, the readiness plan includes numerous recommendations that other cities should consider as the ZEV market expands.

According to the San Diego Regional PEV Readiness Plan, San Diego already has over 7000 plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), as well as 500 public charging stations . To increase the adoption of ZEVs (PEVs that run only on electricity and have no tailpipe emissions), the Readiness Plan emphasizes the importance of increased public awareness of electric vehicles through outreach, education and a visible network of charging infrastructure. To expand infrastructure, the plan identifies a need to streamline permitting of charging stations so they can be more quickly and affordably adopted. In addition, charging should be available where drivers are likely to need the service: at their work sites, public shopping centers, and multi-unit homes. The plan highlights that almost three-quarters of PEV charging occurs at the owner’s residence, and 20% occurs at public charging  stations. Increased charging availability requires building and urban zoning codes that accommodate the needs of charging infrastructure. It also requires that employers and homeowners associations understand the benefits of providing charging stations, and that local communities and regional agencies communicate their charging concerns and coordinate implementation.

As the PEV Readiness Plan states, California could have up to 500,000 PEVs by 2020. Declining battery costs, continued consumer incentives, and more model options will make PEVs even more appealing for drivers considering their first alternative fuel vehicle purchase. Plus, the new direct current (DC) fast charge project just announced by BMW, Volkswagen and ChargePoint should go a long way to decrease range anxiety. The project will offer DC fast chargers at regular intervals along routes from both San Diego to Portland and Washington to Boston. DC fast chargers can add up to 80 miles of range in 30 minutes of charging, making these stops more comparable to those of conventional fueling. The joint project will also potentially stimulate construction of more DC fast charge transit corridors throughout the U.S.

SD Forward’s Regional Plug-in Electric Vehicle Readiness Plan offers useful guidance for community members and public officials to keep up with growing ZEV demand and to help California meet its ZEV adoption targets. While it acts as a resource for other communities, several other cities have also released ZEV adoption plans. Part II will explore best practices for PEV readiness in these other plans.

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