California Asks Residents Not to Charge Electric Vehicles, Days After Announcing Gas Car Ban

With California’s power grid under strain due to extreme heat and high demand, the utility grid operator is asking residents to avoid charging their electric vehicles. This comes days after the state announced a plan to ban the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035.

The California Independent System Operator is asking residents for “voluntary energy conservation” over the Labor Day weekend.

According to the National Weather Service, the western United States is facing a “prolonged and record heat wave.”

“The top three conservation actions are to set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher, avoid using large appliances and charging electric vehicles, and turn off unnecessary lights,” the American Public Power Association said, asking residents to limit energy usage during 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.Ford raised the price of the Mustang Mach-E by up to $8,300 for 2023

“Today, most people charge their electric cars when they come home in the evening — when electricity demand is typically at its peak,” according to Cornell University’s College of Engineering. “If left unmanaged, the power demanded from many electric vehicles charging simultaneously in the evening will amplify existing peak loads, potentially outstripping the grid’s current capacity to meet demand.”

The regulations passed by the California Air Resources Board last week say that 2035 the state will require automakers to sell only cars that run on electricity or hydrogen, though some can 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.

The regulation will help California meet clean air standards by cutting emissions, resulting in a 25% reduction in smog-forming emissions from passenger vehicles by 2037. 

California already has the nation’s largest electric vehicle market in the country with over 1.1 million vehicles registered. That comprises 43% of the nation’s plug-in vehicles.

Today, though, there are just 80,000 public charging stations around the state, far short of the 1.2 million the state estimates it needs by 2030.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has made $5 billion in federal money available to states for EV charging stations over five years, under President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law. Under Transportation Department requirements, states must submit plans to the federal government and can begin construction by this fall if they focus first on highway routes, rather than neighborhoods and shopping centers.

The law provides an additional $2.5 billion for local grants, planned for later this year, to fill the remaining gaps in the charging network in rural areas and in disadvantaged communities.

Electric vehicles amounted to less than 3% of U.S. new auto sales last year, but forecasters expect big increases in the next decade.

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With Our Car Culture, No Gas Is No Glory

Some parents offer their children a blessing every time they see them.

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My dad’s holy water is gasoline.

Whenever I visit him, he looks under my car to make sure the fuel lines aren’t leaking, then switches on the ignition to see if the tank is at least half full, like he says it always should be. Whenever Dad visits me, he comes holding a five-gallon gas can to top off the lawnmower, weeder and edger we use on the patch of lawn I keep so we can have something to do together.

He’s a retired truck driver, someone who always tries to ride in style, despite his limited income. So most of Dad’s life lessons center on the combustion engine. Check the timing belts every morning. Ten cents saved on a gallon of lower-octane gas will cost you later. Always carry a wrench, jumper cables and a quart of oil. If you can’t own a truck, know someone who does.

Dad imbued me with a love of cars that continues. I own four gas-guzzling relics — a beat-up 1968 VW Bus, an immaculate 1974 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, a sturdy 1979 Ford SuperCab and a 2005 GMC Yukon that’s my daily driver. Yep, I wince at the pump every day — but I largely don’t mind, because I love ’em.

Strangers and friends are always surprised, because I seem like a Prius-driving liberal. I keep my fleet because it connects me to my self-sustaining, rancho libertarian roots. I boast that three of my four cars have carburetors, then laugh as I have to explain what one is. Owning an older car means constant vigilance and the acceptance that sooner or later, good times are going to break down. Besides, my jalopies force me to pay attention while I drive, since the most advanced thing any of them carries is a CD player.

So when I heard that California has banned the sale of new gas-powered cars after 2035, I didn’t immediately celebrate.

The development came via a vote by the California Air Resources Board, two years after Gov. Gavin Newsom tasked its members with developing and implementing a plan to accomplish the audacious goal. It’s the latest move in the state’s battle against anything that uses fossil fuels.

The air board last year banned the sale of gas-powered gardening equipment starting in 2024 and portable generators by 2028. More than 50 cities are limiting or outlawing natural gas in new homes and businesses. California is supposed to reach 100% renewable energy by 2045, and Newsom pushed the state Legislature earlier this month to make it harder to tap into new oil and natural gas wells near schools.

We’re doing all this to fight climate change and set an example for everyone else. Lauren Sanchez, Newsom’s climate advisor, described the gas-engine ban as “a huge day not only for California but the entire world.”

I’m all for cutting back on emissions. They exacerbate climate change, poison our environment and disproportionately affect minority communities, like the one I grew up in right next to the 91 Freeway that divides Anaheim and Fullerton. I appreciate California thinking big and its willingness to lead on important issues while other states look on. Coming into the Los Angeles Basin on a sunny morning and seeing a tarry gray cloud over it is a grim reminder of what we’ve done to ourselves.

But a crackdown on gas engines also threatens a communion that working-class Californians have shared for decades.

Learning how to work on your car is a rite of passage in car culture, a torch passed from hot-rodders to lowridersvan-life hipsters to import-car enthusiasts. Maybe you can’t own a home, but you can at least maintain something and call it your own.

You learn to respect the engine’s facets, whether you’re a gearhead or not. The different greases and grimes each part creates. The deep smell of oil, the acrid stench of gas. The symphony of sounds — a roar, a purr, a putter — each engine creates. An ecosystem of enthusiasts, generalists and specialists creates community (if mostly among men).

All of this is now endangered. California officials insist that only new gas-powered cars are being targeted. But no one buys that. In 2004, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger repealed the so-called grandfather clause on smog checks, which exempted cars older than 30 years. Now, it applies only to models from before 1975. With the new regulations, the slow drip against the combustion engine turns into a fire hose.

Again, I get the reason why. But telling Californians that banning combustion engines is necessary to save the planet isn’t enough. The air board also needs to realize that the culture gas-powered cars created is one that electric cars will have a hell of a time replacing. There’s no emotional attachment yet from the masses, and I don’t think there ever can be.

Nothing is cheap on electrics. Something as simple as getting out of the car turns into a dystopian mess if the computer doesn’t cooperate. Most need specialized mechanics for the tiniest fixes — you can’t call over a cousin to check on your car in the driveway. Their shape and feel remain robotic and antiseptic. Their sickly wheeze when on the move is such a stumbling block for blue-collar types that the electric version of Dodge’s iconic Charger muscle car will roar just like its gas-powered ancestor. Electric cars also aren’t as harmless for the environment as proponents make them out to be, since mining for the rare-earth minerals that power them threatens oceans and Native American reservations alike.

These are just some of the reasons only a handful of my friends and family float around in electrics. Families tend to get hybrid SUVs; men favor mamalonas (massive trucks) or muscle cars that proudly belch out exhaust. None are conservatives; all believe in climate change. But the state will have to pry their Silverados from their cold, dead hands.

These might seem like selfish and trivial points in the face of the existential dread that is our air-quality emergency. But to dismiss such concerns is classic elitism. You can’t shame the working class out of what brings them joy. That’s why the air board hasn’t outright outlawed gas-powered engines — yet.

Bans in the name of saving Earth almost always fall on the very people they claim to uplift. I sadly know this from experience. In 2006, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced a program to ban all but the newest big rigs in the name of cracking down on diesel emissions. The air board eventually adopted the same regulations. Drivers whose rigs were no longer eligible either had to buy a new model or retrofit their old ones, costing thousands of dollars that self-employed truckers didn’t have.

Many lost their jobs. One of them was my father. Dad was too old to justify buying a new truck, yet too young to retire. He had to sell off his Kenworth and remained unemployed for years as a glut of younger truckers flooded the market.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California Phasing Out Gas Vehicles in Climate Change Fight

California set itself on a path Thursday to end the era of gas-powered cars, with air regulators adopting the world’s most stringent rules for transitioning to zero-emission vehicles.

The move by the California Air Resources Board to have all new cars, pickup trucks and SUVs be electric or hydrogen by 2035 is likely to reshape the U.S. auto market, which gets 10% of its sales from the nation’s most populous state.

But such a radical transformation in what people drive will also require at least 15 times more vehicle chargers statewide, a more robust energy grid and vehicles that people of all income levels can afford.

“It’s going to be very hard getting to 100%,” said Daniel Sperling, a board member and founding director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. “You can’t just wave your wand, you can’t just adopt a regulation — people actually have to buy them and use them.”

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom told state regulators two years ago to adopt a ban on gas-powered cars by 2035, one piece of California’s aggressive suite of policies designed to reduce pollution and fight climate change. If the policy works as designed, California would cut emissions from vehicles in half by 2040.

Other states are expected to follow, further accelerating the production of zero-emissions vehicles.

Washington state and Massachusetts already have said they will follow California’s lead and many more are likely to — New York and Pennsylvania are among 17 states that have adopted some or all of California’s tailpipe emission standards that are stricter than federal rules. The European Parliament in June backed a plan to effectively prohibit the sale of gas and diesel cars in the 27-nation European Union by 2035, and Canada has mandated the sale of zero-emission cars by the same year.

California’s policy doesn’t ban cars that run on gas — after 2035 people can keep their existing cars or buy used ones, and 20% of sales can be plug-in hybrids that run on batteries and gas. Though hydrogen is a fuel option under the new regulations, cars that run on fuel cells have made up less than 1% of car sales in recent years.

The switch from gas will drastically reduce emissions and air pollutants. Transportation is the single largest source of emissions in the state, accounting for about 40% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The air board is working on different regulations for motorcycles and larger trucks.

California envisions powering most of the economy with electricity, not fossil fuels by 2045. A plan released by the air board earlier this year predicts electricity demand will shoot up by 68%. Today, the state has about 80,000 public chargers. The California Energy Commission predicted that needs to jump to 1.2 million by 2030.

The commission says car charging will account for about 4% of energy by 2030 when use is highest, typically during hot summer evenings. That’s when California sometimes struggles to provide enough energy because the amount of solar power diminishes as the sun goes down. In August 2020, hundreds of thousands of people briefly lost power due to high demand that outstripped supply.

That hasn’t happened since and to ensure it doesn’t going forward Newsom, a Democrat, is pushing to keep open the state’s last-remaining nuclear plant beyond its planned closure in 2025 and the state may turn to diesel generators or natural gas plants as a backup when the electrical grid is strained.

More than 1 million people drive electric cars in California today and their charging habits vary, but most people end up charging their cars in the evening or overnight, said Ram Rajagopal, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University who has studied car charging habits and energy grid needs.

If people’s charging habits stay the same, once 30% to 40% of cars are electric, the state would need to add more energy capacity overnight to meet demand, he said. The regulations adopted Thursday require 35% of vehicle sales to be electric by 2026, up from 16% now

But if more people charged their cars during the day, that problem would be avoided, he said. Changing to daytime charging is “the biggest bang for the buck you’re going to get,” he said.

Both the state and federal government are spending billions to build more chargers along public roadways, at apartment complexes and elsewhere to give people more charging options.

The oil industry believes California is going too far. It’s the seventh-largest oil-producing state and shouldn’t wrap its entire transportation strategy around a vehicle market powered by electricity, said Tanya DeRivi, vice president for climate policy with the Western States Petroleum Association, an industry group.

“Californians should be able to choose a vehicle technology, including electric vehicles, that best fits their needs based on availability, affordability, and personal necessity,” she said.

Many car companies, like Kia, Ford and General Motors, are already on the path to making more electric cars available for sale, but some have warned that factors outside of their control like supply chain and materials issues make Californians’ goals challenging.

“Automakers could have significant difficulties meeting this target given elements outside of the control of the industry,” Kia Corp.’s Laurie Holmes told the air board before its vote.

As the requirements ramp up over time, automakers could be fined up to $20,000 per vehicle sold that falls short of the goal, though they’ll have time to comply if they miss the target in a given year.

The new rules approved by the air board say that the vehicles need to be able to travel 150 miles (241 kilometers) on one charge. Federal and state rebates are also available to people who buy electric cars, and the new rules have incentives for car companies to sell electric cars at a discount to low-income buyers.

But some representatives of business groups and rural areas said they fear electric cars will be too expensive or inconvenient.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

California May Give Electric Car Owners Even More Taxpayer Cash

teslaCalifornia residents may soon be shelling out more taxpayer money to help prop up the state’s electric vehicle industry.

As Congress debates whether or not to increase federal subsidies for electric cars, California officials say they are ready to “make up” the difference if they don’t. Currently, the state offers $2,500 for every pure electric vehicle sold in the state. The California Air and Resources Board will hold hearings on Thursday and Friday to decide on possibly increasing this rate to $4,500 if Washington, D.C. does not lift their own caps.

The federal government offers tax credits up to $7,500 to electric vehicle (EVs) buyers. However, this credit caps off at 200,000 cars sold per manufacturer. Tesla has already surpassed this threshold and GM is not far off. Some lawmakers and EV supporters have proposed raising the limit to keep incentivizing people to buy the green — but very expensive — cars.

Mary Nichols, the chair of California’s Air Resources Board, is hopeful federal lawmakers will raise the threshold, but she said “we would be having to look at another way to make up for that” if they don’t.

Consideration of more EV subsidies comes as California continues to adopt more environmentally measures. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation earlier this month that mandates the state’s generation industry produce 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. The California Energy Commission voted in May to require every new house in the state to include solar panel installation, despite the expected increase in cost for prospective home buyers.

California officials are also in a heated battle with the Trump administration over its authority to regulate emissions standards. The White House is mulling whether to freeze fuel efficiency standards at 37 miles per gallon in 2020 — in lieu of raising the standards to 47 mpg by 2025, as was previously established during the Obama administration. Under the Clean Air Act, California is able to set their own, more strict emissions standards. The Trump administration is looking to rescind this authority.

“At the end of the day, California officials looked at the data, came to a different conclusion than Trump, and are proceeding with the authority they already have under the Clean Air Act,” stated Don Anair, the research director for clean cars at the Union of Concerned Scientists, according to Bloomberg.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the state’s largest electric utility, has been a vocal supporter of raising electric vehicle subsidies, indicating that they plan to spend hundreds of million on EV infrastructure and want to see satisfactory returns on its investments. Ratepayer-funded  charging stations serve as a new source of revenue for utility companies.

This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Regulators Want All New CA Homes To Use ‘Zero Net Energy’

Solar panelsPlacing a big bet on solar power and new regulations, state officials have rolled out ambitious new requirements aimed at slashing energy use in newly-constructed homes.

“Buildings built in California starting in 2016 will have to comply with the nation’s toughest energy conservation standards,” the Central Valley Business Times reported. “The California Energy Commission has unanimously approved building energy efficiency standards that it says will reduce energy costs, save consumers money, and increase comfort in new and upgraded homes and other buildings.”

In single-family homes, that would amount to a drop in energy use by almost a third, relative to 2013 standards, the CVBT noted.

Cost and consequences

The New Residential Zero Net Energy Action Plan, as it has been dubbed, aimed “to establish a robust and self-sustaining market so that all new homes are zero net energy (ZNE) beginning in 2020.” Critics have reiterated longstanding objections to a statewide push of this kind, especially around the prospect of rising energy costs.

“The most complex issue will be valuing the homes, which will cost more upfront,” according to Greentech Media. “Currently, the CPUC is quoting an extra $2 to $8 per square foot after incentives. There will likely need to be incentives or creative utility billing, especially if the homes are providing demand-side services as the CPUC envisions. The CPUC says that the utilities are on board and will have to evaluate locational benefits of having net-zero homes on the system.”

As Greentech Media noted, planners have built in some would-be loopholes designed to make progress on ZNE without imposing the new standards too quickly: “Homes can be ZNE-ready, rather than actually being energy-neutral. That could mean they are solar-ready, for instance, but perhaps don’t have solar panels already installed.”

But even supporters of the plan have cautioned that executing on its goals may be a daunting challenge. At the Huffington Post, one analyst noted, “as California’s clean power goals rise, new capacity could begin to slow.”

“Some planned large projects are now on hold due to financial problems. Others face environmental challenges, such as threats to bird flyways and desert habitats. Large-scale solar plants, particularly those using solar thermal technology, are losing appeal to investors as photovoltaic panel prices plunge. And utilities, having largely reached their current renewable procurement targets, have few new projects in the pipeline. What’s more, the federal solar investment tax credit program for new utility projects drops from 30 percent to 10 percent after 2016, and ends completely for individuals.”

Unifying the grid

Nevertheless, optimism among policymakers and activists has remained high — largely because of the role of technological innovation centered in California. Apple and Google have embarked on so-called “grid-scale” renewable energy projects, while Tesla has pushed into the home energy storage business.

But some experts have implied that the problem of rising energy costs could best be addressed by linking up the net-zero energy industry with the zero-emission automobile industry. “A recent California study estimated that utility companies could earn $2.26 to $8.11 billion in net revenues from large-scale commercialization of EVs,” as reported in Fortune. “This is sufficient to allow utilities to invest both in installing charging infrastructure and return some of the revenues to their customers in the form of lower rates.”

By supplying ubiquitous EV charging stations, observers surmised, utilities could eventually recoup electrical power from cars embedded into the same flexible grid as homes. “The value of having a flexible load on the grid will grow even further with higher amounts of wind and solar,” Fortune continued. “Electric vehicles can be programmed to charge during peak solar or wind generation periods, preventing this valuable electricity from being wasted. In the future, electric vehicles could increase their value by putting electricity back into the grid as well[.]”

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