Justice is the goal, not the mandate, in California’s electric car regulation

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Discounted fares, car-sharing programs and at least a million more public charging stations are among the ways California will look to make it easier to buy and drive electric cars when sales of gas-powered vehicles end Cars.

But the state won’t force automakers to participate in stock programs designed to ensure people of all income brackets can buy electric cars.

“This rule had an opportunity to really pave the way for low-income households to improve access to and affordability (for) EVs, but it fell short,” said Roman Partida-Lopez, traffic equity legal counsel at Greenlining Institutes.

Instead, auto companies get an extra credit on their sales quota when they make cars available for car sharing or other programs that target underprivileged Californians. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged $10 billion over six years to stimulus to get electric vehicles into the hands of low-income residents, charging infrastructure and other efforts to get cleaner cars and trucks on the road.

The Stockton Mobility Collective is one example. To improve transportation options in deprived neighborhoods, the collective will set up five to seven neighborhood charging stations with 30 electric cars that people can rent hourly or daily. The first cars and charging stations started last week in an apartment complex. The program received $7.4 million from the state.

Car ownership in South Stockton is low, so interest in the program is high, said Christine Corrales, lead regional planner for the program. But it’s only the first step in what must be a major effort to make electric vehicles a viable option for lower-income Californians.

“If the infrastructure isn’t available locally, it can be difficult to encourage people to adopt and switch,” she said. “That’s something we’re trying to be proactive about.”

Rules passed by the California Air Resources Board last week say that in 2035 the state will require automakers to only sell cars that run on electricity or hydrogen, although some may be plug-in hybrids that use gas and batteries. People will still be able to buy used cars that run on gas, and car companies will still sell some plug-in hybrids. Aside from issues of affordability and access, the state needs to overcome skepticism from people who believe electric cars are just not for them.

“We need to overcome the elitism that comes with owning an electric car,” said Daniel Myatt, who brought an electric car through the state’s Clean Cars 4 All program in 2020, which he qualified for while unemployed due to illness.

More than 13,000 electric cars have been purchased through the program since 2015. It’s offering people up to $9,500 to trade in their gas cars for electric or hybrid models.

About 38% of the money spent on a separate rebate program has gone to low-income or disadvantaged communities, and the state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars building charging stations in those neighborhoods. Today, however, there are only 80,000 public charging stations across the state, far fewer than the 1.2 million the state needs by 2030.

Under the new rules, automakers can have their sales quotas counted if they participate in multiple stock programs.

These programs include: selling cars at a discount to car-sharing or other community programs; ensure that cars coming off lease go to California dealers participating in trade-in programs; or sell cars at a reduced price. To meet the third option, cars would need to cost less than $20,275 and light trucks less than $26,670 to qualify for the additional credit. It only applies to the 2026 through 2028 model years, and there is no restriction on who these cars can be sold to.

Southern California EVen Access is using a $2.5 million state grant to install at least 120 chargers in a 12-county region, in apartment complexes and in public places like library parking lots. Apartment complex owners can receive $2,500 per charger installed on property.

Overall, the state should be spreading more public messages about available electric vehicle purchase programs so all communities can reap the benefits of fewer cars that emit emissions and pollution, said Lujuana Medina, Los Angeles County environmental initiatives manager. The state also needs to invest in workers who can support an electric transportation economy, she said.

“There’s going to have to be some really progressive public utility programs that help drive EV adoption and sales,” she said.

Alicia Young of Santa Clara, California, wasn’t sure when she first heard about the state’s trade-in program. But she eventually pursued the deal, leaving her 2006 Nissan for a Ford plug-in hybrid. It cost $9,000 according to its trade-in value.

The car runs smoother and just as fast as any petrol car she has ever owned. She drives it mostly on battery charges, although she still tops up the gas tank about once a month. The apartment complex where she lives with her mother doesn’t have a car charger, so she often has to rely on charging points at the grocery store or other public places.

She has shared information about the trade-in program with her colleagues at the senior center where she works, but many of them seem suspicious, she said. The state could accelerate adoption by using public ambassadors from diverse backgrounds to build trust in electric cars, she said.

“It’s a bit different at the beginning, but that’s normal with any new car,” she said.

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