The critical need to electrify our transportation system

An electric vehicle takes in juice at a charging station. (Photo: Tim Siegert-batcam, via Shutterstock)

As this week is proving, we are once again reeling from the impacts of climate change with a record-breaking heatwave and dozens of expensive and deadly fires exploding throughout the state in just this past week. Sadly, this is not the end of our fire season or California’s heatwave. Fires will continue to burn, and the climate will continue to get hotter, more expensive, and deadlier for our kids and grandkids.

In order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change we need to electrify our transportation system. According to the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) latest greenhouse gas inventory, transportation makes up over 41% of the state’s GHG pollution and cars make up a staggering 29%!

Fear of charging, often called “range anxiety” is a key factor why people don’t buy an EV.

There is no way to solve this problem without changing how we move from point A to point B. At Environment California, we know that means we need smarter housing, better public transportation, safer sidewalks, protected bike lanes and 100% electric vehicles by 2030.

Environment California supports AB 326 by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and Senator Ben Allen because it is another pathway to getting into an electric vehicle. And that is a good thing. By creating a speedy, low cost, low hassle opportunity for people to get into an EV that means more people will try the EV.

Our state Legislature has the opportunity to put California back on the path of meeting our goals by passing Assembly Bill 326 authored by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and Senator Ben Allen, which will help get more electric vehicles on the road in place of conventional gasoline vehicles, which emit twice as many emissions. AB 326 will do this by creating a legal framework for “Electric Vehicle Memberships” that will allow more Californians to access EVs through month-to-month memberships.

This first-of-its-kind legislation will provide an opportunity for ALL Californians to access EVs without the typical obligations of high-interest loans, predatory lending, or long-term financial responsibilities that are associated with combustion-engine vehicles. Reducing these barriers helps to incentives EVs to a larger population of Californians.

Recent studies, including one done last year by Environment California Research and Policy Center indicate that fear of charging, often called “range anxiety” is a key factor why people don’t buy an EV. AB 326 will help people get over the anxiety by letting them drive and charge a car for a few months. It’s important to note that studies also indicate that once people drive an EV for a few weeks the “range anxiety” dissipates.

Another barrier, as Sierra Club found in a survey, is that EVs are simply not available to purchase. According to their survey, “of more than 900 U.S. dealerships found that 74% did not stock a single EV.”

California is a leader in the EV world, but we still have a long way to go. Solving the 21st-century problem of climate change requires new 21st century ideas. This bill is a good step in the right direction and should not be shelved because car dealers are worried about their near monopoly.

AB 326 removes long-standing barriers to alternative fuel vehicles and will help California achieve our goals of cleaner air and lower carbon outputs. This legislation is an innovative approach the state has been seeking to get more Californians driving an electric vehicle and it’s needed now more than ever.

It is a win-win for California.

Editor’s Note: Dan Jacobsen is the state director of Environment California.

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