Recently, California’s state legislature passed a new bill seeking to direct the allocation of funds paid in a legal settlement by the German company, Volkswagon (through its subsidiary, Electrify America).
The automaker had agreed to spend some $800 million to construct electric vehicle (“EV”) charging stations in California in order to resolve a lawsuit with the United States.
Legislators mandated the construction of new electric charging stations in areas deemed disadvantaged and in locations with particularly poor air quality. The new law will probably jump start efforts by some proponents of green EV autos to promote electric vehicles within the state, ensuring a more even distribution of charging stations to under-served locales.
Establishing a Global Network of Charging Stations
Although EV vehicles hold the promise of reducing reliance on fossil fuels, the popularity of this technology during recent years suffered due to a lack of readily available recharging capabilities. People who favor the use of electric engines over combustion engines have encountered reluctance on the part of car buyers to invest in a technology lacking a strong infrastructure support network. Some analysts suggest EV vehicles must penetrate global auto markets between 10% and 20% in order for the public to embrace electric vehicles enthusiastically. When this occurs, prices might fall substantially.
In Europe, a consortium of auto manufacturers including Ford, BMW, Mercedes, and Volswagon recently joined forces to help construct several thousand new charging stations along public roadways by 2020. Its recent settlement with the U.S. government’s Environmental Protection Agency will require Volkswagon to invest some $2 billion in the United States to help develop a charging station network nationwide. (California will benefit from at least $800 million of that sum. The recently passed state law ensures a significant number of charging stations in the state will spring up in under-served areas.)
Developing an EV Support Infrastructure
Currently, the U.S. possesses only approximately 16,000 charging stations nationally, a figure equivalent to 320 per state. Yet these facilities do not cover the nation equally. California, a jurisdiction with serious air pollution problems, already boasts some 3,000 stations (nearly 1/5th of all available units). The proposed expansion should further increase the ability of state residents to travel long distances in EV vehicles comfortably.
Neighboring Nevada in 2015 announced an ambitious program to create an “electric highway” between Reno and Las Vegas through the construction of electric vehicle charging stations at critical points along Highway 95. The presence of a Tesla Motors manufacturing facility for EV vehicles located outside Reno reportedly served as a stimulus for that effort. No doubt California’s proposed expansion of its network of charging stations will please a growing number of Nevada EV drivers. The availability of public charging stations offers greater assurance to drivers of electric vehicles they will have the capability to roam extended distances.
Making EV Vehicles More Attractive
In order to increase the desirability of new EV vehicles, car manufacturers have begun addressing two issues: (1) expanding the miles a given brand can travel after charging and (2), reducing the time periods required for re-charging. Today, some models can comfortably travel 200 miles before requiring another charge. The charging time frame remains more problematic; this figure evidently still varies widely.
The development of networks of available charging stations across California will likely spur these efforts. Already, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority has developed a goal of maintaining an all-electric fleet of buses within 13 years. The growth of an infrastructure to support EV technology bodes well for the environment. Some analysts predict increased demand for electric buses and other large vehicles will soon boost EV manufacturing in the state, creating more jobs and better income opportunities, also.
Reducing Dependency on Fossil Fuels
In the final analysis, the expansion of California’s network of charging stations provides residents of the state with more options for choosing useful motor vehicles. Perhaps the sales figures for EV autos and trucks during the next five years will indicate whether this new technology has succeeded in gaining wider acceptance. Increasing the use of electric vehicles would promote enhanced air quality in Los Angeles and other cities.