Electrification in California

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Electrification in California

Electrical vehicle infrastructure development in California includes a variety of plans to meet the state's growing demands for faster, more efficient, and more convenient charging stations. These plans include state organizations working alongside utility companies to design and implement more reliable infrastructure, a vast allocation of funds from different sources, and partnering with military installations to pilot programs that feed energy directly from electric vehicles back into the grid, among others.

Electric Vehicle Infrastructure In California

Current and Required Infrastructure

  • Currently, more than 18,000 light-duty electric vehicle charging plugs are publicly-available throughout the state.
  • CALeVIP works with community partners and local governments to develop regional projects incentivizing electrical vehicle charging at workplaces, businesses, apartment complexes, condominiums, and public agencies and organizations. Through 2019, six regional CALeVIP incentive projects have been initiated, with three more regional projects set to launch in 2020.
  • With the Clean Transportation Program, also called the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, investments by the California Energy Commission for charging infrastructure and technologies are aiding the transition to electric vehicles throughout the state. While supporting strategic regional plans to support adoption of these vehicles, the Energy Commission is the leading state organization investing in the new infrastructure.
  • The Energy Commission is currently constructing a corridor that connects direct current fast chargers as the largest network of public charging stations in the United States, allowing drivers the freedom to travel throughout the whole state. The network provides for the rapid charging of electric vehicle batteries on every major highway in the state. Transportation corridors allow drivers the ability to travel throughout California and conveniently charge with the least amount of time.
  • The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) works with utility companies such as Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), to initiate pilot programs to install infrastructure for electric vehicles at apartment dwellings, workplaces, and public destinations. Each utility company has an advisory council of representatives from state organizations, environmental justice groups, advocates, automakers, technology providers, and others that give direct guidance and feedback. The three utility companies are working to install the infrastructure to support up to 12,500 charging stations with total budgets up to $197 million.
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in 2012 approved an agreement between NRG Energy and the CPUC to settle outstanding legal issues between the two. NRG was ordered to invest $102.5 million in electric vehicle charging infrastructure across California, with no cost to the site hosts. They were also ordered to install public fast-charging stations, make electrical upgrades for electric vehicle (EV) charging at existing building facilities, support electric vehicle access programs for disadvantaged communities, and fund research and development related to electric vehicle charging strategies and technologies.
  • Southern California Edison (SCE) partnered with the Los Angeles Air Force Base from 2015 to 2017 to create a vehicle to grid (V2G) program that allows its electric vehicles to give power back to the electric grid. The program used the batteries acting as storage, and charged them only when power was cheapest (usually midday when renewable energy generation peaks) and discharged energy back into the grid when there was shortage in supply. The 34 electric and hybrid vehicle fleet thus served as a storage resource for the California power market.
  • PG&E, SDG&E. SCE, and Liberty all offer electric vehicle “time-of-use” rates for residential customers. These rates give customers incentive to charge during off-peak hours, helping to minimize the impact of the demands from vehicles on the electric grid. Both SCE and Liberty offer rates for commercial customers’ electric vehicle charging as well.

Plan and Resources

  • California has a goal of 5 million zero emission vehicles on the roads by 2030 and 250,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2025. These goals are part of greater initiative to have 100% clean energy all throughout California by 2045.
  • The Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) is speeding up electric vehicle use through the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP), aimed at greatly increasing EV charging in public locations with funding from the California Energy Commission of up to $200 million. The goal is to install sufficient charging infrastructure to support the state's goal of up to 1.5 million plug-in EVs by 2025.
  • Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed an executive order in order to give the state's number of zero-emission vehicles and charging stations a boost. This $2.5 billion initiative aims for 5 million zero emission vehicles in California by 2030, ordering all state entities to work alongside the private sector and levels of government to achieve these goals, while significantly expanding vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • The order proclaims that all state entities must work with the private sector and all necessary levels of government to begin the installation of 200 hydrogen fueling stations and 250,000 zero-emission vehicle chargers, including 10,000 direct current fast chargers by the year 2025. It further orders all state entities partnered with local governments to prioritize this infrastructure installation when possible, ensuring electric vehicle chargers and hydrogen fueling stations are affordable and accessible to all drivers, while supporting the recommended policies that enable owners to install electric vehicle chargers in their homes and businesses much more easily.
  • The Electric Program Investment Charge has several projects dealing with vehicle-grid integration, and supports the development of new and emerging energy technologies in California for non-commercialized use, also providing assistance to commercially projects it deems viable.
  • In 2019, the California Public Utilities Company took actions aimed to advance the state’s transportation electrification goals, authorizing the utilities to spend millions of dollars aiding additional EV charging infrastructure. This requires pilot programs for charging stations in parks, schools, and beaches, and for PG&E, SDG&E, SCE, and Liberty Utilities to spend a combined $55 million installing up to 800 charging stations, with 25% and 100% in disadvantaged communities.
  • The California Public Utilities Company's actions allow PG&E to initiate a new rate design that is subscription based for industrial and commercial customers, such as transit fleet operators, electric delivery trucks, and public providers. This new design rids of demand charges and implements a model similar to subscription cell phone bills, with measuring methods that encourage customers to charge during off-peak hours.
  • The CPUC authorizes PG&E to spend more than $107 million for the installation of charging infrastructure for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles, with at least 30% of their budget going to disadvantaged communities. This program will give approximately 3,000 vehicles electricity ranging from school buses, to forklifts, to semi-trucks.
  • The CPUC's decisions order PG&E to spend up to $4 million to provide rebates for charging infrastructure for customers of low to moderate income in its service area. It includes additional incentives, such as compensation rebates for the purchase of home chargers and the panel upgrade that is often necessary.
  • The Energy Division staff of the CPUC will host the first workshop of a series on March 12, 2020 for comment on the Energy Division Draft Transportation Electrification Framework. The workshop will concentrate on the investor-owned utilities' development of 10-year transportation electrification (TE) plans that were proposed, the role(s) for IOUs in meeting state goals, and the priorities of near-term investments.


  • With electrical vehicles continuing to see substantial growth, the challenges of ensuring that enough charging infrastructure is in place beyond the main thoroughfares, meeting the expected demands in energy, maintaining overall affordability, supporting a competitive marketplace, and preserving and enhancing the reliability of the electric grid, will all continue to be ongoing.
  • Even with improvements in infrastructure, the energy grid, and affordability, technological advances such as the creation of batteries that are more durable, hold a longer and more efficient charge, and can be recharged quickly will continue to be an ongoing challenge, as many factors are involved. Advances in the mining industry, for example, that will allow for better extraction of the limited critical elements already in use in electric car batteries and technology devices, and the discovery of other such materials and techniques to hold and store energy will continue to be necessary for the industry to address and improve upon.
  • Although the California Public Utilites Commission has approved up to $738 million worth of projects toward electrical charging infrastructure since 2018, being able to compete with the oil industries deep financial backing and political influence in order to bring forth these new policies and initiatives will continue to be a challenge for the industry to grow and prosper.
In order to fully see and understand the current state and the projected growth and challenges of the California electric vehicle infrastructure initiatives, it is worthwhile to compare and contrast by case studies of other nations and economies already ahead in this arena and prospering such as the country of Norway. In so doing, a more clear picture can be presented on the shortfalls, needs, and advantages of current ideas and programs. Norway's rapid and broad electrification is the result of varying factors, including extensive incentives and subsidies by the government, and also the countries already unique use of renewable energy.

Electrification of Norway

Subsidies, Benefits, and Incentives

  • In an effort to cut air pollution and carbon emissions and transform into a greener economy, Norway parliament set the year 2025 as the goal for all new cars to have zero emissions, compared to California's goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on roads by 2025, and the UK's goal of 2040. Thanks to a generous range of subsidies and benefits, the country has put small electric cars within the reach of working-class families, and has made the appeal of switching a financial necessity for a lot of people.
  • 60% of new cars sold in Norway in March 2019 were fully electric, a new record-high. 220,000 of Norway’s total fleet of 2.7 million cars are now electric vehicles, as it aims to have a mostly carbon-neutral cars on its roadways by the year 2040. This increase is a direct result of state policy to offer broad incentives to electric vehicle owners, such as excluding electric vehicles from certain taxes and offer free or cheaper road tolls, parking and charging points.
  • As far back as 1990, the Norwegian government began to introduce these incentives for electric vehicle owners, with the greatest changes coming with the new millennium. While conventional vehicle buyers must deal with varying levels of taxation, those who purchase an electric vehicle are given incentives worth thousands of pounds. Incentives include avoiding a heavy import and purchase taxes, being exempt from the 25% VAT (since 2001), avoiding road tax, road tolls, paying half price on ferries, free municipal parking in cities and neighborhoods, and owners can usually use bus lanes (since 2005).
  • Even though electric cars cost more to both make and purchase, by avoiding all initial tax and VAT, their price is similar if not less than fossil-fuel vehicles. An imported VW e-Golf 36kWh cost £28,285 before taxes, seemingly much more than the gas powered Golf 1.2L at £19,867, but after the Norwegian tax breaks, the petrol version gains £5,866 in registration tax, and another £4,966 in VAT, raising the price to £30,699. That makes the petrol car £2,414 more, according to Erik Figenbaum, chief research engineer at Norway’s Institute of Transport Economics.

Cost to Operate

  • Electric vehicles are also a lot cheaper to run, with charging costs averaging £264 yearly versus an average £1,293 on gasoline. Being exempt from widespread road tolls, owners save around £1,319 a year, while avoiding road tax saves another £267. For our e-Golf example, £3,000 a year can be saved by switching to electric through these means, according to Figenbaum. Although these policies have begun to change, owners of electric and other zero-emissions vehicles still only have to deal with up to 50% of the rate for parking and tolls.
  • Growing restrictions on the use of fossil fuel cars are also incentivising consumers to switch, including ever higher road tolls, high parking fees, and being prevented from driving in the city on certain days. More neighborhoods are adopting resident-only parking practices, where electric cars may park for free while fossil fuel vehicles must pay high fees.

Other Contributing Factors

  • Norway because of these incentives have risen to third-largest market for electric vehicles in the world after the US and China, although with a population of just 5.35 million. This rise is also due to the fact that on average Norwegians are among the richest people in the world, enabling many the citizens to be able to afford a new electric car. Norway's gross national income per capita more than tripled from 1992 to 2017 to nearly $64,000 according to the World Bank.
  • Although the country has a reputation as a major player in the oil industry, nearly all of Norway’s energy domestically comes from renewable hydro power from their abundant waterfalls, making the switch to electric vehicles a much easier and greener transition than it would be for other countries who still use coal-fired plants for electricity. Prime Minister Erna Solberg states that for the majority of countries, the first phase of transition is to switch from coal to renewables, but "thanks to our waterfalls," Norway has already reached the second phase. Now, she states, Norway needs to replace fossil fuels used in other sectors with clean electricity, with a need for improved batteries for trucks and ships so they are able to travel greater distances.
  • Norway intends their shift to electric to continue beyond cars. State-owned Avinor, who operates most of the country’s airports, announced its intentions to use electric powered aircraft on short flights by 2030. The country also leads the world in the shift to electrical and battery technology for shipping, with all electric passenger vessel operating already on the Nærøyfjord, as the fjords become zero-emission zones by 2026.

Norway's Electrical Infrastructure

  • The country’s now extensive electrical charging infrastructure was initiated by government funding, but since has been taken over by private companies who are taking over operations, along with a lot of interest by companies overseas. A power grid investment of up to 11 billion crowns will be needed by 2040 if the majority of cars then are powered by electricity, and drivers continue their current charging habits, according to a study conducted for Norway’s power.
  • Grønn Kontakt and other suppliers have established an extensive network of charging stations across Norway, reducing consumer "range anxiety" in the central areas of the country, in and around their largest cities. Electrical charging stations are now found along main roads from down south in Mandal to Tromsø in the north, but the use of these stations is still considerably low outside the densely populated cities.
  • As time progresses, lower production costs, improved batteries and in increase in charging stations will make it ever more appealing for Norwegians to choose an electric vehicle.
As countries and regional governments around the world strive to reach greener and more sustainable standards in the adoption of these methods and programs, it is worthwhile in comparison to note the overall progress of California's decarbonization plans in order to better understand the effects of electrical vehicles on the states overall energy load. California's carbon capturing goals and policies aim at zero carbon emissions throughout the state's economy by 2045 through a variety of methods, projects, and technologies.

California Carbon Capturing


  • The California Resources Corporation's carbon goal is to design and implement California’s first carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) system by 2030, in order help their aim to sequester 108 MMT of CO2 by 2045.
  • California is working towards solutions that may be critical in the decarbonizing industry, as carbon capture will play a vital role in reaching deeper decarbonization, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A recent report states that CCS technologies provide the third largest potential to reduce emissions California.


  • A vote 2018 by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) chose to incorporate CO2 reductions from Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technologies into the state's Low Carbon Fuel Standard Program (LCFS). The LCFS program awards credits alongside tax breaks for CCS, making the value of reductions in CO2 $135 and $150 per metric ton, allowing CCS technology through these incentives to be utilized on a much grander scale. This program has been so effective that multiple jurisdictions around the world (including the EU) have put into effect similar regulations to clean up their air.
  • The CCS Protocol put into action includes a credit Quantification Methodology and Permanence Protocol, that lists the site selection and required monitoring and verification necessary to earn credits. The LCFS aims through this protocol to reach 20% reduction in carbon by 2030, with some of those reductions now being allowed to come from industrial facilities which currently only sequester about 1% of the CO2 standard of the Paris agreement set for 2040, according to a 2018 report from the Global CCS Institute. With a third of California's electricity generated by natural gas fired power plants, and a quarter of all the state's emissions coming from industrial sources, the protocol allows CCS to play a significant part in a zero-carbon grid by removing emissions from all fossil fired power plants by 2045.
  • In 2018 the US Congress passed the FUTURE Act expanding section 45Q, allowing tax credits for sequestering large volumes of CO2 no matter the source. With the new CCS Protocol, there is added incentive on top of the 45Q tax credit, which is currently worth $35 per metric ton for storage through depleted oil fields, and $50 per metric ton for geological storage. With credits under the LCFS worth nearly $100 per metric ton (weekly prices could go up to $172) the two incentives combined could help CCS technology spread widely.


  • California's Governor issued executive order expanded the state's goals to economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045 with negative emissions playing a fundamental part. To zero out all of California’s current 429 million tons of CO2 emissions, and removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere, emissions would need to be sequestered back into depleted oil fields, or deep into geologic formations. California has billions of tons of geologic capacity through their depleted oil fields and deep sedimentary basins that have the capacity to sequester massive amounts of CO2.
  • Direct Air Capture is a method that captures carbon directly from the ambient air. As of Jan. 1, 2019 the LCFS was modified to include DAC, allowing any entity that captures and sequesters a ton of carbon dioxide from the air can claim credit from California. Since it does not matter where the CO2 is captured and stored, any entity throughout the world can apply for credit, allowing DAC to play a vital role in California's plans and methods.


  • The Department of energy awarded a grant in 2018 to California's Elk Hills CCS project, only one of nine similar projects being funded throughout the country. The California Energy Commission identified Elk Hills as “an optimal site for the safe and secure sequestration of CO2” and “one of the premier sequestration sites in the U.S.”
  • Currently, DAC projects in California are only in pilot stages of development, with their implementation being a vital component to reaching the state's goals, according to reports.
  • Two carbon sequestration projects have been undertaken in Kern county, one of which was abandoned for various reasons in 2016. These projects proposed burying the gas permanently in the western part of the county and touted the double value of capturing CO2 and using it to enhance local oil production.