CAPITOL WEEKLY PODCAST: This Special Episode of the Capitol Weekly Podcast was recorded live at Capitol Weekly’s conference examining California’s climate goals: ROADMAP 2035: Cars, Carbon and Climate Change – How Do We Meet California’s Zero Emissions Goals? which was held in Sacramento at the California Endowment Conference Center on Thursday, May 25, 2023
This is Panel 1 – The Technology: How We Get There
Jacquelyn Birdsall, Toyota; Steve Douglas, Alliance for Automotive Innovation; Quentin Gee, California Energy Commission; Orville Thomas, CALSTART
Moderated by Alejandro Lazo, CalMatters
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Alejandro Lazo: Thank you very much, Tim. So where is California’s electric revolution most visible? The answer to that question took CalMatters, which is my organization, to one of the wealthiest towns in the country. That’s Atherton, nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley. It was there where home prices routinely top $7 million, that electric car ownership is highest in this state, about one out of every seven cars. So, I open up our panel today with Atherton, not to single any particular place out, but just as a starting point.
In order for California to reach its goal of no new gasoline-powered car sales by 2035, the state essentially has to become Atherton and more… In other words, zero emission vehicles have to go from being a symbol of status to ubiquitous. From Silicon Valley to Tulare County, and a lot more than that has to happen. So, this morning, we’re gonna talk about zero emission vehicles and clean energy and the demands on automakers and others to meet state and other national mandates.
California is about to undergo a transformation like none other. In less than four years, more than a third of all new cars purchased in California must be zero emissions. And beginning with 2035 models, no new gasoline-powered cars will be sold in the nation’s most populous state. So, we will discuss the resource challenges we’re facing, and supply chain concerns. Batteries. We’ll delve into whether California’s energy grid can handle a 15-fold increase in electric cars. We’ll discuss who buys electric or other zero mission cars in California and what needs to happen before all sales become zero emissions.
We’ll also discuss some of California’s other regulations and will leave some time, of course for questions as Tim mentioned. So this is a pretty high complex, high-stakes issues, lots of nuances, and so that’s why I’m very pleased that joining me on stage are folks who bring very high level expertise and boots on the ground attention to California’s Clean Energy future. I’m really looking to afford to hearing all of their perspectives, and I’m gonna start… Oh no, since I can see the name tags, let’s… start from my left.
Quentin Gee is a supervisor with the California Energy Commission, where he forecasts transportation energy demand at the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency. Quentin, thanks very much for joining us.
Quentin Gee: Thanks Alejandro.
AL: We have Jacquelyn Birdsall, Senior Engineering Manager of the Fuel Integration Group at Toyota Motor North America Research and Development. Jacquelyn has more than 20 years of experience in hydrogen, having held several roles in the automotive industry. Thanks very much, Jacquelyn.
Jacquelyn Birdsall: Thank you for having me.
AL: And next to Jacquelyn, we have Orville Thomas, the state policy director for CALSTART, overseeing budget and legislative advocacy for that non-profit, which is dedicated to building a high tech clean transportation industry. Thank you very much, Orville.
And finally, Steve Douglas, a Vice President with the [Alliance for Automotive Innovation]. He works extensively on environmental regulations with both the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. EPA, including, of course, zero emission vehicles.
So, with those introductions, I love to start with you, Quentin. Could you just lay out what the market for zero emission vehicles in California looks like today? What’s demand look like? Is it realistically in line with California’s mandates?
QG: Yeah, thanks, Alejandro. What we do at the California Energy Commission, the CEC, we get regular data from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and conduct analysis with that… breaking down the different fuel types. And what we’ve seen since 2020 or so, we’ve seen a remarkable uptick in new vehicle sales that are zero emission. So, if you look at 2020 or so, we were about 8%, zero emission vehicles. And then 2021, about 12% of all the new vehicles sold were zero emission. And then in 2022, we hit about 18%, and then in the first quarter of 2023, we’ve got about 21% of all the new vehicles sold were zero emission. So we’re seeing a pretty stable uptick, and if you were to just follow that trajectory quarter by order, up to the point where you mentioned that CARB regulation, Advanced New Cars II coming in, if you just follow the most recent trend that’s going on in the last 12 or so quarters, we would supersede that requirement. I think it’d be a little bit above about that.
We are seeing a lot more interest as well, and an increasing interest in battery electric vehicles as opposed to the plug-in hybrids- there’s still is a pretty strong demand for plug-in hybrids, but battery electric vehicles are really seeing remarkable couple of growth much more than I think a lot of people thought, a lot of people thought that there would be a preference for plug-in hybrids because people have things like range anxiety, those sorts of things. But we’re seeing that actually battery electric, the full-on electric, no engine at all, or really the things that consumers are gravitating towards, and it’s been pretty surprising.
And some of the analysts that we follow have been saying things like, by the time you hit 10-15% penetration of new vehicles sold, that’s when consumers begin to really start to have a different attitude and a different take on… ‘what are these things, I’m seeing them all over the road, my neighbor has one.’ I ask him questions, ‘oh, you can plug it straight in a wall socket?.. I didn’t know that… it’s a little bit slower.’
They sort of get all these questions sort of answered more and more, and it becomes, I think a much more sort of salient or, top of the mind sort of thing when people are beginning to think about purchasing a new car.
AL: So, Steve, as we just heard from Quentin, it sounds like we’ve got a new age of car manufacturing that arrived starting since 2020… or at least significantly since 2020. Can we say that it’s been spurred by California’s mandate? Is that why we’re here today?
“Automakers are responding not just to California, but this is a global movement. So it’s around the world. The EU has regulations, California has regulations, EPA proposed new regulations, China has regulations, everybody has regulations. And so the question of whether or not we’re transitioning… The question is how quickly?” – Steve Douglas
Steve Douglas: Yeah, that’s a great question. Thanks for inviting me, I appreciate the opportunity to be here. So, yeah, I think I’ve been working on this for 25 years on the California zero emission vehicles regulations, and over [garbled] of course, I started in 2010 with a mass market electric vehicles coming out. And that’s certainly a big part of it.
I think automakers are responding not just to California, but this is a global movement. So it’s around the world. The EU has regulations, California has regulations, EPA proposed new regulations, China has regulations, everybody has regulations. And so the question of whether or not we’re transitioning is… That’s not the question. We are. We will. The question is how quickly? And the questions around the technologies are, ‘Can people afford them?’ ‘Can people fuel them?’ And, ‘Can we get the critical minerals needed to power those?’ So that’s kind of where we stand today.
I agree with Quentin. The market in California, it has been on a steady trajectory from 20-ish percent last year… and this year. I will point out on that first question that over the last couple of years, the average electric vehicle price has been about $60-65,000, which suggests that the people buying these are affluent to single-family homeowners. And if we’re going to reach the levels that are legally required by California, which are 50% in just four years… so every gas car will have an electric car in just four years. If we’re gonna reach those levels and 70% by the end of the decade, we have to expand beyond the affluent single-family homeowners, we have to reach the mass market. We have to reach the multi-family housing, apartments, condos, people who park on the streets. So we have a lot of work to do.
As far as the automakers go, We know how to build electric vehicles, every car company does. We have already invested $110 billion, and I think by 2030, that grows to $1.2 trillion in electrification. So, it’s happening, but there’s a lot of factors outside of the vehicle that have to take place if we’re gonna be successful, if we’re gonna be inclusive in this transition.
AL: Jacquelyn, I’d love to hear from you, your perspective, just on the broader question of California’s project here with these mandates. From your point of view, have California’s mandates help spur innovation of Clean Car technologies? Have they gotten in the way? In any way?
JB: That’s an excellent question. And thank you for having me or be here. [Nice] to see everyone in the room, too. So, for Toyota, we actually began development of our hybrid technology and fuels technology back in the 90s. We saw that there was going to be a need to move away from gasoline, and though we weren’t talking about climate change yet, we did still recognize the negative impact that we’re having on the environment. So then in 2015, we launched our Environmental Challenge 2050, which was our own goal to decarbonize our vehicle fleets and how we manufacture the vehicles, reduce our water content or water usage, increased recyclable. All these are overall goals that would be required for Toyota globally for us to decarbonize across our entire industry.
So we kind of already have our own internal mandate that we’re trying to meet, and when we talk about decarbonizing the vehicle fleet itself, what that means is electrification. And for us, that’s a combination of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric battery, electric and fuel cell electric. And in offering all these different power train types, the customer can choose the vehicle that is best for their lifestyle.
What we have seen in California is that there is a lot of support. There’s smart policies, there’s funding for both hydrogen fueling infrastructure and for battery chargers… more so in this state than in any other state. California has done a great job at making hydrogen a motor fuel and having the Weights and Measures Department all set up to actually put their stamp of approval on hydrogen dispensers. All this work that a lot of people don’t really think of that. But it’s really essential to how we make this infrastructure available for the customers to be able to purchase the vehicles. As Steve said, so eloquently, we know how to build the cars, and we build phenomenal cars that people love to drive, but we need the infrastructure. And what California has done so well is made that infrastructure available.
AL: Great, Orville, I’d love to get your thoughts in here, can you outline some of the challenges that the automobile industry is facing? And what are you advocating for regulators here in California, going forward?
Orville Thomas: Challenges. I think this whole room, we could probably spend the day on that one… So challenges, and I’m glad I saw Laura [Renger] come in because we’ll definitely have a lot of solutions, hopefully coming from your panel. The technology, I would like to say, is here.
And I think we could all agree that we have vehicles that kind of fit in the needs of almost the entire market, whether it’s light duty passenger or a medium and heavy duty. We’re getting to the class A, like day cab and sleeper cab tractor trailers. But the challenges really are centered infrastructure: do we have places where fuel cell electric vehicles can refuel? Do we have places where battery electric vehicles can be charged? Are they working? Are… is the uptime there?
And so I think where we come from is how do we make… I think when we talk about technology, it’s… vehicle technology. But what about refueling technology? How do we fix that gap? Whether it’s mobile power units, whether it is trailers that have hydrogen refueling that could be connected to agricultural sources of methane, or carbon capture, and instead of sequestration, it has electrolysis that’s available.
So, I think what we are looking at and where the regulations are pushing, is: how do we solve for that last bit of energy? And when we did advanced clean fleets, as many of you know, the Air Resources Board passed the advanced clean fleets regulation. If you looked at the public comments, it was interesting because there was a lot of support for moving in that direction, but the exemptions are really all based around delays in infrastructure. And so California has these great goals that are being exported to other states. I think we have nine states that have adopted Advanced Clean Trucks, a little less have adopted Advanced Clean Car II, but the question I hear from all those states is, ‘well, what are you doing for infrastructure, and how do we solve that problem?’
AL: Yeah, let’s jump right into infrastructure and the electrical grid. Quentin, as California rapidly boosts sales of electric cars and trucks over the next decade, this is a critical question. Will there be enough electricity in the state to power them?
QG: Yeah, so there’s a couple of considerations on that front, and that’s what we really do at the Energy Commission is to try to get a firm grasp on this. On the one hand, there’s the energy that is necessary… so are there enough power plants to provide the electricity needed to power the vehicles? And then the other challenge, the other question that we have to face is, is there the right kind of grid infrastructure, the ability to transmit the electricity over long distances? Or if it’s in the local area, or once it gets to the local area, is the distribution infrastructure capable of supplying that?
And that’s basically one of the key things that we do at the Energy Commission is do that evaluation and do the forecasting work and provide that to the Public Utilities Commission and to the utilities. And they use that for planning. And so what we already know what we’ve put in place as of 2021, even before that, we have had zero emission vehicle forecasting, of course. But in 2021 and 2022, we instituted a new forecasting framework that sort of looks a little bit more proactively at the regulations. So before Advanced Clean Fleets – that regulation that we were just talking about – before that was even passed, we had built that into our forecasting as a scenario option. So we’re really expanding the ability to say like, Okay, this isn’t walked in as a policy yet, but we know where the market’s headed. We know where the regulatory landscape sort of is, we know what that’s looking like, and we can get that planning in place.
And so we now know that come 2035, we’re gonna need about 60,000 gigawatt hours of additional electric power across the state .. of additional electric electricity available there, and we also do sort of daily load shaping and a little bit of geographic distribution. So we have a good sense of how much electricity is necessary. We’re working with the utilities and with other state agencies to plan and get that ahead. We’ve got 12 years before 2035 rolls around. A lot of upgrades… some upgrades will only take a couple of years, some upgrades will take seven to 10 years, but we know what we need, now. We are working with all the relevant stakeholders to sort of ensure that we can meet that need in the future. But it’s a big challenge because for a long time, the state’s been pretty energy efficient and electricity demand has kind of been stable, so we now need to grow. We need to do a lot… There’s also a lot of electrification in other areas, too. Building electrification, that adds to that, but vehicles are the primary primary sources there.
AL: Great, I’d love to get others’ thoughts on this question. Really.. this question of whether it’s realistic that the state can avoid brownouts as it ramps up some of these energy grid issues that we’ve been seeing in recent years. Steve, would you like to take a shot at that one?
SD: Sure, sure. I guess I’m less worried about the whole state going dark. But I’m really more concerned about… And while I agree, 2035 is the 100% target…. we’re way, way, way in front of that. It’s 50% in just four years. So, if you think of the Sacramento Airport. If 50% of the rental cars are electric vehicles, how much power do we need at the Sacramento Airport? Is it 10 megawatts, 20 megawatts? And it’s one thing to plan for it, but it’s another thing to actually have the utilities deliver 10, 20, 30 megawatts of power to a site. That takes a long time. Is it four years? Six years? Eight years? I don’t know. But, you know that the precision with which we’re focused on the vehicle.
So, for example, 2028 requirement is 51% electric vehicles. So it’s not 50%, it’s not 60%, it’s 51%. So, such precision. But when you go beyond that and you start looking at neighborhoods – like what portion of low-income neighborhoods have access to home charging? Is it 5%, 10%, 2%? Do we have ANY goal or target? Have we established a target? Have we said like, by 2030 25% of all low income neighborhoods will have access to level two home charging. Do we have a target? Do we have a goal?
And yet we have, for the vehicle side, we have exactly 68% have to be electric vehicles by 2030. So we’re way in front of that 2035 and we have to take… And it’s not, I’m not saying that it can’t be done, I’m saying that we have to act now. If we want to deliver that power to Sacramento Airport, you have to act now.
AL: California has this sort of twin goal, moving to renewable energy while also going to zero emissions. You know Jacquelyn, love your thoughts on this sort of endeavor. How do you see things from your point of view?
JB: Well, every challenge, there’s an opportunity, right? [laughter]
We’re talking specifically about technology here. What we have recognized, and I’m speaking just on behalf of the Fuel Cell Group at Toyota Research and Development, is we have a validated fuel cell. We have over 300 million miles on our field, so electric vehicles that are out in the market. We have the capability to make a lot of power with these fuel cells. So what we’ve done in certain instances we’ve repacked them. We have a one megawatt generator using our fuel cells that’s out of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, demonstrating how we can create power from hydrogen created from renewables for a completely sustainable grid.
“We’re fighting carbon, right? So, it’s whatever powertrain gets us there to be decarbonize as quickly as possible. We’re running out at the time, and I think it needs to be all technologies available” – Jacquelyn Birdsall
We have a few other systems where we’ve just taken the fuel cell out of the vehicle and made it mobile, we use that along with hydrogen trailers to charge our Rav 4 Primes or [garbled], so if you are in a remote area and you need to charge… You can use hydrogen and fuel cells to charge your electric vehicles. Or you just refill the hydrogen vehicle, whatever works. But there’s a huge opportunity here with all the renewables being made available along with the protected energy putting a lot of money towards green hydrogen. We’re gonna have a lot more green hydrogen, a lot more sustainable hydrogen available. And then we can use the hydrogen to store the energy that’s being created from wind or from solar, and later use that either to generate electric power to put that on the grid or directly to fuel hydrogen vehicles. So from our perspective, it’s really exciting to see all these new renewables coming online and having hydrogen being available as an energy storage mechanism.
AL: I guess, Jackie, posing the question… is the debate settled between EV or other zero emission options? Would anybody else like to take that?
JB: We’re fighting carbon, right? So, it’s whatever powertrain gets us there to be decarbonize as quickly as possible. We’re running out at the time, and I think it needs to be all technologies available.
QG: Yeah, I think so. That as well, I would note that that fuel cell electric vehicles don’t comprise much of the total number of sales. They represent about less than 1% of the new vehicles sold. That’s the light duty side of things, so they’re definitely… there are some people that are interested in that. Anecdotally, I’ve talked with some owners of fuel cell electric vehicles and they say, ‘Oh, I like the idea, I can just go to a fuel station like I did normally.’ And actually, one person I know lives in an apartment and he says, ‘it was gonna be tricky for me to get an electric car to charge, and so I got this fuel cell.’
JB: You’re talking about me! [laughter]
QG:… No, no, not you. [laughter] Yeah, actually one of our staff has it. But, definitely a lot of people. One more anecdote to add on to that.
But yeah, they definitely have a role to play, I think, in the medium and heavy duty space. That the refueling needs there are, I think, a little bit different. But as long as consumers maintain\n interest in them, they can definitely play a large role there.
As far as the grid goes. One thing I do wanna say is that I think I’m not… I don’t wanna say that this isn’t a challenge. Certainly it’s something we need to do and integrate well. But I think a lot of people think like, ‘What happens if everybody tries to plug in their car at once?’ And that would not be good, of course. But if everybody’s air conditioner kicked on at the exact same second, that would be a problem. If everybody in LA tried to get on the 405 at 5:01 PM, that would not be good for the 405… it’s already not good for the 405 with what’s out there.
But we wanna ensure that when we look at how the electricity system operates… is, we’ve got millions of people doing all kinds of different needs throughout their days, charging at different times. And so what we wanna look at is sort of that broad shaping of how do millions upon millions of different vehicles operate and plug in and not plug in, et cetera.
So there are some geographical challenges, definitely places like airports and ports. So, I don’t wanna say that this is a non-issue, but I do want us to not have that kind of scary vision of just everybody plugging in at once and the whole system blows.
“There’s opportunities here… We have a whole of government approach for probably the first time ever – that the federal government is acknowledging climate change, and they are putting their money where this acknowledgement is” – Orville Thomas
AL: Oh, absolutely, I think the fact remains that we really need several factors to align for us to pull this off. Namely, drivers must avoid charging cars during, as you mentioned, during evening hours when there’s gonna be less solar energy available. We’re also looking… this has been mentioned already, but we can certainly discuss it now… more than a million new charging stations, we need to get operating. And then we need offshore wind farms, which are not abundant in California today, to say the least, must start rapidly cranking out a lot of energy. So yeah, let’s dive into that. Orville, I’m just wondering, how do you see this transition going forward?
OT: I think we have to be honest, right? It is going to be in bits and spurts. And we’re gonna have problems. And there’s gonna be politics that’s injected into it. The fact that you said, “brownouts” …is a very political term that was last year, when it’s related to EVs
And what I think, and I think you said it perfectly: there’s opportunities here. There’s not a mandate without funding, and that would be horrible. We have a whole of government approach for probably the first time ever – that the federal government is acknowledging climate change, and they are putting their money where this acknowledgement is. The state’s gonna get almost $500 million in national EV infrastructure funding for a network of DC fast chargers that we’d have interspersed about every 50 miles, I think is the regulation for NEVI. And so we will have access to public charging.
To the question of, ‘well, not everyone will have one in their house…’ not everyone might need it in their house. But we wanna make sure that where they’re going, they will have it available when they need it, and it will be working. That is also critical. We need to make sure all this technology works.
And you talked about wind farms… Yes. And I think Jacquelyn talked about this too, we are looking at technology now that’s being developed that’s advancing very quickly that is gonna help the state meet its complementary goal of 100% renewable by large-scale battery storage. How do we have ability with hydrogen to turn that into energy, if it has to go vehicle-to-grid? You know I think everyone’s been talking about that, we have opportunities.
So… yes not everyone is going to be charging at the same time, when I pick up my EV rental car, at Hertz, I don’t see 12 EV rental cars charging at the same time. They kind of stack it, which I think is great for a reservation system. They know when they can charge and kind of make that available to you. And airports are doing a great job in decarbonizing right now already. I think LAX has ordered a large number of Nikola Tre battery electric vehicles to do their onsite goods movement, and so we are getting there.
CALSTART has what we call a beachhead model that we worked on with the Air Resources Board. Where it essentially has all the technology. And where is the technology developing to get to the whole ecosystem. And it started with things like forklifts and yard tractors, where the range is minimal, and the energy sources could be near zero or zero emission. And we are very close to the end of that right now. We have school buses, we have drayage tractors, we have passenger light duty vehicles, we have transit buses. We are very close to getting that last stage, which is the overnight day cap, semitruck tractors. And it was great to see, we had a policy summit in February, Tesla brought one of their Class A tractors to the capital, and Nikola brought a Class A fuel cell electric vehicle, and both of those went 500 miles.
And we are quickly getting to the stage of our technological development where we are meeting the ranges that are necessary. And there are infrastructure advancements happening. Next year, hopefully we get approved for Arches, which is a gigantic US Federal hydrogen hub dollars. And just thinking of what maybe that 1 billion to $2 billion definition would mean for private capital to come. I’ve heard as much as 2 billion could leverage $15 billion in hydrogen infrastructure. So, we have these moments, and I think memo to the capitol out there: please don’t get in the way of what good policy is, because we’re developing it. And I think the marketplace and the partners that are on this are really doing a good job. So how do we get there is we just need funding, and we need the regulations not to inhibit the development that’s going on.
AL: Steve, please go ahead. I see you nodding there.
SD: Yeah, there’s so much here. So, a couple of things first, again, I think it’s appropriate there’s been a laser focus on the vehicle, and the requirements for the vehicle. And I think we’re kind of there, we’re heading in the right direction.
I do think… Orville had mentioned, like, everybody doesn’t need to charge at home, they can use fast chargers… and that tends to be the answer. But again, I point to a low-income neighborhoods. I point to multi-family dwellings. If you’re charging publicly, you’re paying three, four times as much for electricity as if you’re charging at home. So I would ask, is it reasonable that low income will pay triple, four times as much as affluent single-family homeowners, so I focus on that.
The NEVI… I forget the name of it, but… the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, IIJA… It does provide DC fast charging along the corridors. But that’s one, four prong station every 50 miles. And those are kind of low power, it’s 150KW, so it would take 30-45 minutes to charge a car, at least. So if you look like between here and LA that would be 24 plus. So, imagine if there were just six gas stations between Sacramento and Los Angeles, and each gas station only had four nozzles. And those nozzles took 45 minutes to fill your car.
And I will add to that that that was passed two years ago. There hasn’t been a shovelful of dirt moved since that bill passed. There’s no chargers out there now. Nobody has put in any chargers as a result of that bill.
So again, these things take time and we need to start taking actions today if we want to meet the requirements. And again, they’re out there, and I don’t think they’re unachievable, but it’s gonna take a lot more than just a vehicle. I think it’s gonna take all of us to hit these requirements.
AL: Right, I kinda see it as an issue of certain government mandates and government subsidies, as well as competition among and between carmakers who… As I understand it, Tesla in particular has focused a lot on building out its own infrastructure. What needs to be done either by the industry, or by a state or federal government to get this infrastructure going? Anybody here?
OT: Really quickly, to Steve’s point, there will be more than six chargers from Sacramento to LA with NEVI. I think part of the reason the shovels haven’t hit the ground is everyone was required to submit a NEVI plan, and it was approved by the Department of Transportation, and if you read it, you’ll see that there are gonna be a lot more chargers, so don’t fret. And if you’re online, please don’t worry about that.
What can we do for the infrastructure? And luckily that there are lots of programs available at the CEC, the Clean Transportation Program is the one I think of the most. It’s currently being reauthorized – that provides a $110 million every year for hydrogen and battery electric infrastructure. Mostly targeted to medium heavy duty, but there is opportunities for light duty.
And I think where we are looking at is with the Energy Commission, they also have a Communities in Charge program that CALSTART administers transparently. That does provide funding for that level two chargers for that gap, that Steve talked about. And it’s not just multi-unit dwellings, its workplaces, its universities and colleges, and it’s a place of worship. It’s tribal lands. We really have these vast watts of geography in California, they don’t have access to anything. But there are opportunities when you think of solar mixed with battery storage, then DC fast charging or mobile charging units and mobile power units that Jacquelyn was talking about. That could be hydrogen or battery electric, that could fill in those gaps and they don’t necessarily have to be a strain on the grid. They could slow sip for energy over a 24-hour period, and then use a DC fast charging to expel that energy, and very quick ones.
And then as we think through where we go, it is largely gonna be dependent on how we provide incentives, and where the private sector can come in and be complementary. And I think that is really an opportunity for California and every other state, is that we have the funding, and now we have really great grant programs that have matured and have staff on the side of it, like at the CEC or the CPUC or at the Air Resources Board, and there really is a race now in the private sector to figure out how California can be a model. Because we don’t wanna just be a model for the vehicle programs and the mandates. We wanna be a model for how to set up the infrastructure to get this done correctly.
QG: Just to add on this… on the DCFC [Direct Current Fast Charger] yes… we track the number of chargers as best as we can. [If] someone installs one at their house, it’s hard to know that, but, when we’re talking about the DC direct current fast chargers, we are tracking them, and there are 8,000 in the state as of now. So yeah, NEVI is mone source, but the CEC has been funding a lot of those and there’s been a lot of private investment as well.
AL: And Jacquelyn, you were gonna jump in…
JB: I just wanted to add, in addition to all the discussions we’ve heard about, be it 6 [or] 8000, whatever the amount of chargers there are… 56 charging stations… It doesn’t mean anything if they’re not available, if they’re offline. And so I think something that needs to be done is to ensure the reliability, the uptime of all of the infrastructure that we’re installing. Because it doesn’t mean anything if you have a hydrogen stations, and you get there and you can’t refill. Or you get to a charger – especially on your way in between Sacramento and LA – and that charger’s offline.
“We are looking at by 2030, we would have 1,000 gigawatt hours of battery capacity production. To put that in perspective, that’s about enough for 10 – at least 10 – but probably more like 12 million EVs per year” – Quentin Gee
And as we start to try to build out this environmental equity and to make battery electric vehicles available to people that don’t own homes, that can’t charge at home.. it’s gonna become critical that those public chargers be online, right? That’s the livelihood for these people, that they be able to recharge their vehicles. And so I think right now, there’s not as much focus on that because people can charge at home and are charging at home. But once that becomes the infrastructure that everyone is reliant on that uptime is growing to become critical. And so we need to make sure that our policies and our funding mechanisms are grants are requiring – holding accountability on the part of the infrastructure providers – to make sure that that equipment is online and available.
AL: Yeah, it’s really something to imagine a world where charging stations are ubiquitous as gas stations. It’s really a stretch of the imagination at the moment, but that’s where we need to go, if these mandates are gonna be met… are gonna be a real thing. I’m interested in talking about battery technology a bit. Quentin, the car industry is grappling with supply chain constraints, competition for raw battery materials and a rush to start producing cheaper US-made batteries, even. Can you just walk us through some of the challenges around batteries?
QG: Yeah, so as we all know, there’s been a supply chain challenge over the last couple of years. And also demand for lithium and other metals like cobalt have really skyrocketed and prices on the market have gone up considerably there. At the same time, a lot of the vehicle manufacturers are really sort of planning ahead. And to just give you a rough sense, staff and at the CEC have been tracking this, and we find that there’s… If you look at the battery manufacturing facilities that have been built and are working, and if you look at the ones that are under construction now, and the ones that have been announced by companies up through 2030, we are looking at by 2030, we would have 1,000 gigawatt hours of battery capacity production.
To put that in perspective, that’s about enough for 10 – at least 10 – but probably more like 12 million EVs per year.
AL: I’m sure we’re fine. [laughter]
QG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that’s a lot of production capacity. Californians buy about 2 million new vehicles per year. The United States as a whole buys about 20 million or so a year. So by 2030, we’re looking at a battery production capacity that would be sufficient to meet that 50% goal that the Biden administration has, and certainly more than enough for California to meet its goals in terms of supply. So, there’s a lot out there.
We do expect supply chains to ease and also as you build more and more factories, you get better and better at doing it and doing it at a lower cost, so we anticipate that vehicle costs will come down over time and eventually be cheaper. It will be cheaper to purchase an electric vehicle than it will be to buy an internal combustion vehicle, because electric vehicles are just much simpler. There are much fewer moving parts. So the fundamentals of it, I think I make it to where this is gonna be not necessarily the easiest thing out there – there’s a lot to learn – but I think it’s an eventuality.
AL: with those fewer moving parts, the automobile union has raised some concern about jobs being lost, with less to do. Steve, I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on this challenge to the automobile industry… an industry that has traditionally provided stable middle class jobs for a pretty significant and important swath of the American population.
SD: That’s a great question that I have a lot of thought to. That’s certainly certainly true. There are fewer moving parts, I don’t think there’s any doubt that you… it requires your people to produce those vehicles, And you look around, and it’s not just the auto industry. And I think that’s also part of the… how do we approach this In a big picture way?
You have, I don’t know what… 100,000 gas stations across the country… Do you just board them up and go away? Do you replace… do you put chargers and those gas stations? Is that feasible? Can the utilities get the power there?
And then there’s also 100,000 people employed at engine factory plants to build gasoline engines and transmissions. You don’t need engines and transmissions for electric vehicles. So, what do you do with those? Do you board ‘em up, or do you retrain those people and move towards electric vehicles, electric motors and assembling electric vehicles?
But yeah, I think it’s a question. But again, where the administration is looking at 50% electric by 2030. California’s regs are 68% by 2030. So, it’s happening very, very quickly. And so it is worth a lot of thought. And then there’s a lot of shortages, who’s gonna put in all these chargers? Do we have a lot of electricians to install chargers at home, install these DC-fast chargers. Install chargers at the airport, where we have 10 chargers in the parking lot at the airport now, is that enough? Who’s gonna put ’em in? So, I think there’s probably some places that will shrink and in some areas that will grow.
AL: Definitely. Jacquelyn, Quentin mentioned how access to critical battery materials pose significant barriers to meeting California’s EV requirements. Actually, that’s my question, not sure you said that – I don’t wanna put words in your mouth. But you talked to us a little bit about that and how the industry recovered from these supply chain disruptions, which Quentin did mention that were faced during the pandemic.
JB: No, we’re definitely still recovering from supply issues. And it’s gonna continue to be a problem. To your point, we are building a new battery plant right now, to try to meet the need, but I think this is one of the ways that Toyota is addressing carbon and we want to decaarbonize as quickly as possible. It’s not, ‘we want to build X amount of battery electric vehicles.’ We wanna decarbonize, that’s our focus. And from great research from the state that led to the Clean Vehicles, Clean Cars rule, we know that people actually only need about 40 miles or 50 miles of driving a day. Zero emission driving a day. And we can meet that need with plug-in hybrids with a much smaller battery.
And so if we have the X amount of material to build a battery, we can build one BEV with 100 kilowatt power battery that that person doesn’t actually need for their daily driving. Or we could build six plug and hybrid vehicles and then decarbonize those six vehicles. Or we could build 90 hybrid vehicles, or 90 fuel cell electric vehicles for that same amount of material. And so we think that policies should be focused on decarbonization and not on meeting X amount of battery electric vehicles. Right, it needs to be about: How do we decarbonize as quickly as possible, what’s the right mix? How, as automakers our job is going to be: create that technology and make it available for customers to buy a vehicle that suits their lifestyle, to help them decarbonize as quickly as possible. So, I think that plug-in hybrids, fuel cells shouldn’t be off the table, especially when we’re talking about things like mineral availability.
OT: I think Jackie touched upon something that because we’re talking about technology may be a hidden secret: It really is urban planning. We have to get to a point where we’re doing a couple of things: we’re reducing the vehicle miles traveled; we’re making it easier for people to have alternative forms of transportation, whether that is riding their bike instead of getting in your car, and not having this dependence on every house having its own vehicle.
And the technology, and I think the manufacturers, are doing a great job pulling their part in, they’re producing the technology that’s available, but it doesn’t solve for traffic, it doesn’t solve our climate problems if everyone just substitutes their current internal combustion gasoline vehicle for a zero emission vehicle. And so what we have to do, and I hope we all take away from this is, there are solutions on infrastructure, there are solutions on technology on the vehicle side. The real solutions are made in city council chambers and planning districts of how do we build around transportation in ways that reduce our dependence on one person getting in a car every day and driving that car to another destination, charge and back to charge.
And so I hope that we have… think the Transit Association is gonna talk about transit next, that’s a viable part of this solution. We’re gonna have to talk about bike lanes and rideshare and autonomous vehicles. And so I think when we get into a lot of how do we meet these goals, part of the meeting, the goal is to just drive less, and reduce that strain at some point on the grid.
AL: No, absolutely. I began with that Atherton example. And as Steve has touched on, in stark contrast to California, neighborhood zipcodes with the largest percentages of Latino, Black residents, they have extremely low proportions of electric cars. And so I’d just like to return to this issue of equity: how can we really start building that into availability of zero emission vehicles, our infrastructure, all of that. I would love to hear some of your thoughts on that. And you, Steve, since you’ve brought this up a couple of times, let’s start with you.
SD: I guess the first thing is to understand what we have. The infrastructure in these neighborhoods will be critical. And residential infrastructure, if you haven’t liked your vehicle and you have a house, it’s easy. You come home, you plug in, in the morning it’s full, if you have to go somewhere and spend four hours at the Raleys, charging your car, well, that’s not convenient. That’s not a solution.
So the first thing I think is just inventorying and knowing exactly what portion of low income residents have access to level two home charging. And I say Level II, because you can trickle charge, but then you’re not getting the advantage of these time of use rates that all of the utilities offer, so you’re not getting the lowest rates. Can you charge between 9 and 6 AM? So first, get an inventory of what portion of these communities have access to charging. And then the second is to set targets for these communities. Is it 25% of all these communities will have access to Level II home charging by 2030? Is that reasonable? Given that we will have 68% of new vehicles at that point will be electric. And so, I just think first determining what we have and then setting the appropriate goals and targets, and possibly requirements, would seem like the first step.
And I’ll just add that in these communities, whether you’re buying a new car or a used electric vehicle, and there are in the inflation of reduction there, very good incentives for or used electric vehicles. you still need the infrastructure. So, I think focusing on that would be extremely helpful.
AL: Orville, I’d love to hear a response, and then after that, I think we might turn to some audience questions. But what do you think about this notion of targets and are there other legislative approaches to be considered when we’re talking about equity in the zero emission challenge?
OT: don’t know if we can talk about equity without thinking about targets for funding and investments, and most of the disadvantaged communities that we work with and have discussions with… It isn’t the light duty vehicles that are causing the public health crisis. They’re located on areas that are high goods movements. They are around ports, they’re around distribution centers, they have had diesel engines pumping smog into their neighborhoods for generations.
And so I think the state is trying to do first when it comes to equity, is how do you get those commercial vehicles to decarbonize? And how do you make sure that if they’re domiciled in some of these areas… I’m thinking around ports, Los Angeles, Long Beach, or the Inland Empire, the Central Valley, where you have trucks moving in and out every day. How do you make sure that the air that is being inhaled is not full of emissions from some of these vehicles?
And also the Ag sector. As we think through, zero emission Ag technology that’s rapidly developing. So I think where the state is going in the policy side is really thinking through those bigger vehicles first, off road vehicles first, and where the air is worse is kind of centrally located around goods movement. And then when you get into that light duty vehicles, Clean Cars For All, the Clean Vehicle Reimbursement Program, how do we make sure that they are getting into a clean-er vehicle? It doesn’t necessarily have to be jumping from a 1990 Ford F150 to a 2023 Tesla… as Jacquelyn said, how can we get that maybe to a plug-in hybrid EV so that they have that range anxiety, but they’re also driving a much cleaner vehicle for their community.
So I think where the state is going is thinking through what are the easiest ways to address the most drastic public health problems, especially the communities that need it the most. And then how can we help some of those super-user drivers that are driving from the Tracys, the Mantecas, to San Francisco? How do we incentivize them, to provide them with opportunities to top off, or when they get to their workplace, to have some kind of subsidized charging opportunities? And then with the Communities in Charge program, how do we make sure that when they do come home, whether it’s a multi-family unit, like building or an area where they live, that they have some subsidized funding for a charger available. So I think the State’s doing really good things. There are a lot of sticks happening with mandates, but I think there are a lot of carrots happening with incentive programs, and deadlines for action. So we have 2035 coming up, and I think it’s gonna be a fun time.
AL: A lot of work to do. Absolutely.
JB: [garbled] Environmental equity is also key to us, how do we make the vehicles available? We have a great used Toyota Certified Used Vehicle Program for the Mirai that comes with a $15,000 fuel card. So, we like to joke that it’s actually the most affordable car that we offer right now is our first generation Toyota Mirai. We have programs called Valley Can, where we have replaced vehicles for low-income customers that are centered around Harris Ranch. And given them first generation Mirais, so that they can now fill up that hydrogen fueling station and replace their previous vehicle with a Mirai.
To your point, back in 2017, we realized that, again, we have this great technology in the fuel cell that we’ve spent over 30 years now developing.. to put two of those fuel cells into a Class A semi and demonstrate that we could pull 80,000 pounds. And so we kinda worked in like the stock works R and D shop in Los Angeles. We did it. Our management was like, ‘What are you guys doing? We don’t produce trucks… that doesn’t make any sense.’ But 16,000 diesel semis come in and out of the port of LA every single day, and the communities around them, have higher rates of asthma, higher rates of cancer.
And I sit behind these trucks, these diesel trucks, and get kind of angry, right? Why is this still a thing? When we have the technology to solve this. So we built the first one. That was called Alpha, then we built Beta, then we built 10 more with funding from the states. We had a very successful program there with these trucks actually moving goods around the ports, and now we just recently announced that PACCAR… we’re going into commercialization with PACCAR for Kenworth and Peterbuilt trucks. To your point, to get these vehicles off the road and to really start to impact those low income communities as far as air quality and health. But… yeah, the next step is how do we get them driving zero emission peoples as well, but I think the impact needs to go beyond just the light duty vehicles. [garbled] Yeah, expand it.
AL: We can move that way. Yeah, so do we have any questions from the audience? Or from the…
Capitol Weekly: I think we have one over here.
Audience member: I’m Mark Nechodom with Western States Petroleum Association. I’m very happy to hear that there is not a zero-sum game discussion going between the fuel cell and EV. I don’t think I’m hearing that. Can you speak to the hydrogen supply chain? And what do you expect that to do? When we’re talking about infrastructure…
AL: I’ll take hands.
QG: Well, as far as hydrogen as a fuel, you mean?.. Yeah, so we know that eventually we’re gonna need to have 100% renewable hydrogen associated with fuel cell EVs. That’s gonna require, most likely electrolysis. There might be some biological sources as well. Definitely something that we need to be thinking about and planning for, especially because electrolysis would acquire electricity. And so that’s something that we’re gonna be looking at in our forecasting work in the future.
JB: You guys know hydrogen? Yeah, you use most of the hydrogen petroleum… Yeah, there’s pipelines in Texas, a lot of hydrogen available down there, to your point. It’s not green right now, but it can be. And through a lot of the funding that’s being made available at the federal level, we are going to see that transition to green hydrogen and the cost is gonna come down significantly. A lot of energy companies are starting to investigate hydrogen. A lot of public utilities are starting to investigate hydrogen. It’s getting more attention than I have ever seen in my 20 years in this industry.
So the supply… right now, we have a good amount of supply Air Liquide just built their facility in Nevada that we’re using for a lot of the stations here. California has already mandated that our hydrogen that’s used for the fuel cell vehicles, has to be at least 33% renewable at the stations. [garbled} is 100% of renewable. But yeah, I think… I hope we get Arches. If we get Arches, we’re gonna see a lot more hydrogen supply coming through and greren hydrogen it that… So again, the first time I’ve seen this amount of federal investment going into it, and I think it’s gonna be very beneficial.
AL: Probably have time for one more question.
CW: We got one right here.
Audience member: Brian Joseph, Capitol Weekly. This is a question for everyone on the panel, but I wanted to focus on something Mr. Douglas had mentioned. You talked about…. are there gonna be enough electricians to install all of the infrastructure that we’ve been talking about in this panel? California Forward recently, we produced a report saying that in fact, California doesn’t have the workforce necessary to install all of the infrastructure that we’re talking about here. I’m wondering what you on the panel think are the challenges for addressing California’s infrastructure workforce, and how we can solve those?
AL: Great question.
SD: I brought up the question. [laughter] I was hoping some of my fellow panel members could help answer it. It’s a great question. I don’t have the answer. That’s not… I’m focused on the vehicle and the regulations around the vehicle, but I think it is a broad question. And it comes up in other states as well as California, that I work in, where it’s like, ‘Okay, how do we get this workforce… How do we get them trained? How do we get them in place?’ Because again, we just don’t have a lot of time. So acting now, getting those, getting those people trained. Identifying them, and these are pretty solid jobs as well, so… Sorry, I don’t have the answer.
OT: think part of the answer is not just exclusive to zero emission vehicles. If you look at all the trades. So I used to work for the California Alliance For Jobs that had laborers, operating engineers, carpenters… I see people here that represent IBEW. I think for generations, education has filtered people into four-year degrees being a must. And we are starting to see that whole re-calculation of it. Especially starting at grade school levels and introduction in STEM and STEAM and all of these programs, and then saying that these trades jobs are viable opportunities to make a great living… great middle class income and benefits, and lifetime jobs that are often generational.
And so I think the state is looking at that as how to revitalize community colleges, how to start thinking through where the trades can be reintroduced into that. And as Steve talked about, this is a real opportunity for a reshuffling, and zero emission vehicle industry and the economy, shouldn’t leave anyone behind. And this is opportunities for those that are coming out of incarceration. These are opportunities for those that are finding new job skills. And it really is going to be an opportunity for California. I know Quentin, the CEC just provided 25 million for a battery manufacturing. So the state is really thinking through what every dollar that goes into zero emission vehicles can do to have that secondary and tertiary economic effects on the industry. And I hope we do because we need it. We have to get to that level of skilled and trained workforce. But it really is a larger conversation about education and where we kind of see the role of the trades.
AL: and that’s an excellent place for us to end. So, thank you all very much for this incredible discussion for kicking us off this morning, and thank you to Capitol Weekly.
Support for ROADMAP 2035 was provided by The Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations, The Western States Petroleum Association, KP Public Affairs, Perry Communications, Capitol Advocacy, The Weideman Group, Lucas Public Affairs and California Professional Firefighters