Electric cars make inroads in California — but fast enough?

May 6, 2018 Updated: May 7, 2018 6:00amA Chevy Bolt all-electric vehicle charges at a dealership in Santa Rosa, which saw a huge jump in sales of plug-in vehicles, along with a rise in demand for cars after the wildfires last fall. Photo: Ramin Rahimian / Special To The Chronicle

California continues to lead the nation in electric car sales.

But it must drive a long, hard road before it can achieve its goal of getting 5 million emissions-free cars on the road 12 years from now.

That’s the message of a new report, which found that while sales of battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles last year rose 29 percent over 2016, the state’s total remains under 400,000 — less than 10 percent of the 2030 goal set by Gov. Jerry Brown this year.

The report by the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit that helped uncover the Volkswagen diesel emissions-cheating scandal, found that especially outside wealthy areas, demand needs to keep growing quickly for California to meet the goal, which is just 12 years away. The group believes it can be done.

“We’re really at just the early stage,” said Nic Lutsey, a program director for the ICCT. “At some point, there’s liftoff in the market. The vehicles will become mainstream and not just hit at a couple niches.”

The top six cities in the state for electric vehicle sales last year, as a proportion of total car sales, were all in Silicon Valley, according to the report. Palo Alto, home to luxury zero-emissions automaker Tesla, led the pack with nearly 30 percent of vehicle purchases skewing electric. Following were Saratoga, Los Altos, Cupertino, Los Gatos and Menlo Park.

The Bay Area had 26 cities among the 30 with electric vehicle shares of new car sales above 10 percent, according to the report.

 Santa Rosa registered the highest percentage increase in demand for electric vehicles among California cities with at least 500 electric vehicles sold. There, the number of new electric vehicles sold in 2017 rose 61 percent from the number of new EVs sold a year earlier. Berkeley and Oakland both saw increases of over 50 percent.

The regional energy company, Sonoma Clean Power, has been partnering with local car dealerships to offer rebates of up to $3,500 on new zero-emission vehicles, on top of state and federal incentives.

“It’s a pretty sweet deal,” said Kate Kelly, with the power company.

About 96,000 electric vehicles were sold in California in 2017, according to the report, and California accounted for half of all EV purchases in the U.S.

The ICCT counts electric vehicles as those that run exclusively on batteries like the Nissan Leaf, as well as plug-in hybrid vehicles like the original Chevrolet Volt, which run on battery-powered engines or gasoline. Hybrids that do not plug in are not counted.

California’s push for electric cars is part of the state’s broader effort to reduce smog and fight global warming. The transportation sector is California’s largest source of heat-trapping gases, accounting for 37 percent of emissions.

Lutsey said that the ongoing battle between California and the Trump administration over fuel-economy standards should have little effect on the state’s push for electric vehicles. Last week California sued the Trump administration over its efforts to weaken or abandon the planned tightening of federal standards, which would force automakers to make their fleets more fuel-efficient.

California has its own regulations, separate from the fuel economy standards, that force automakers to ensure that a percentage of the cars they sell produce no greenhouse gases. Brown issued an executive order in January declaring California’s goal to be 5 million zero-emissions vehicles on the road by 2030. Another, earlier executive order requires 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles on California roads by 2025 — just seven years away. The state’s definition of zero-emissions vehicles includes plug-in hybrids as well as pure battery electrics; fuel-cell vehicles also count.

An older, used model of the Nissan Leaf, in red, is displayed on the sale lot of the Jim Bone Nissan dealership in Santa Rosa. The city saw a 61 percent increase in sales of plug-in vehicles. Photo: Ramin Rahimian / Special To The Chronicle

Photo: Ramin Rahimian / Special To The Chronicle

An older, used model of the Nissan Leaf, in red, is displayed on the sale lot of the Jim Bone Nissan dealership in Santa Rosa. The city saw a 61 percent increase in sales of plug-in vehicles.
James Sweeney, director of the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University, said there’s too much uncertainty to know if California will meet its electric vehicle targets.

Big unknowns include how much car batteries will improve, how widespread charging stations become and whether governments will need to — and can afford to — continue offering subsidies as electric vehicle sales grow.

“Yes, it will be challenging for the state,” he said, “but not impossible.”

Electric cars have not been as popular outside the Bay Area and Los Angeles County. In Sacramento, Bakersfield and Riverside, for example, emission-free vehicles sales were about 2.5 percent of total sales, or half the state average, according to the ICCT.

Cost is a factor. With a typical starting price of at least $30,000 and often much more, electric cars are generally more expensive than conventional vehicles. People who drive long distances may balk at the range limitations, though improvements in battery technology continue, and some newer models like the Chevrolet Bolt and various Teslas can go more than 200 miles.

“I think it’s natural that electric vehicles end up in certain pockets early on,” said Lutsey, who noted that awareness of electric cars and the number of offerings at local auto dealerships can also be factors. “But sales will migrate to more rural communities.”

Only a third of electric vehicles were sold in places where median income was below the state average, according to the report.

With the right blend of new technology and government support, Lutsey figures California can increase electric vehicle sales by at least 18 percent a year — enough to reach the 5 million goal.

To do so, the ICCT recommends extending many of the same programs that helped popularize electric cars in the Bay Area and Los Angeles to other parts of the state. These include: adding more charging stations and offering consumers incentives such as income-based rebates on purchases and more high-occupancy-vehicle lane privileges (though this is increasingly controversial — for example, Los Angeles last month decided to stop allowing solo drivers of clean cars to use HOV lanes for free on some freeways).

The state must continue investing in the electric vehicle programs, the ICCT says, with much of the funding expected to come from California’s cap-and-trade policy, which requires industrial companies to pay to pollute. And it will need to continue strict regulation of the auto market.

In Santa Rosa, car demand has risen since the wildfires last fall. Todd Barnes, owner of the Platinum Chevrolet dealership, said that government incentives, improvements to electric cars such as greater range, and the availability of charging stations have helped make the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt his top-selling sedan.

“It’s a major contributor to our overall volume,” he said.

Kurtis Alexander is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: kalexander@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @kurtisalexander

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Could electric cars be the future of rural transportation?

In poor farming communities that dot the county, many individuals and families don’t have cars, or the cars they have are needed to transport somebody to work daily, leaving other family members without transportation.

Source: Could electric cars be the future of rural transportation?

The Missing 11th Point to Shared Mobility for a Just & Livable City

11. WE SUPPORT COMMUNITY COST-EFFECTIVE INDIGENOUS MODELS OF VOLUNTEER-BASED TRANSPORT AND NOT A COLONIAL APPROACH OF IMPOSING A CAR-SHARING SERVICE WITH A FOCUS ON PROFITS

Rural communities in the Central California farmworker communities have been ride-sharing before it was sexy. Due to lack of resources they have never been able to scale up their services up until recently. The Green Raiteros, a program of The LEAP Institute, aims to do just that. Under the leadership of native Valley leader Rey León, who grew up in Huron, where the service of ‘raiteros’, a volunteer ride-share service, is particularly pronounced, is growing the model with the volunteer drivers and families. “it has been evolving organically and more like a cooperative. We hope we can bolster this model with those true shared community wealth ideals because we see transportation as a utility, not a luxury, but a necessary service that must exist to allow humans to have self determination to advance themselves with ability to maintain their relationships across landscapes to sustain social cohesion, to access opportunities such as education, workforce development, trainings, employment AND CERTAINLY, TO ACCESS QUALITY HEALTH CARE IN A TIMELY FASHION.” Stated Rey Leon, founder and CEO of the Valley-based Latino non-profit, The LEAP Institute as well as Mayor of his hometown, Huron, Ca.

SHARED MOBILITY PRINCIPLES FOR LIVABLE CITIES

SUSTAINABLEINCLUSIVEPROSPEROUS, AND RESILIENT CITIES DEPEND ON TRANSPORTATION THAT FACILITATES THE SAFE, EFFICIENT, AND POLLUTION-FREE FLOW OF PEOPLE AND GOODS, WHILE ALSO PROVIDING AFFORDABLE, HEALTHY, AND INTEGRATED MOBILITY FOR ALL PEOPLE.

The pace of technology-driven innovation from the private sector in shared transportation services, vehicles, and networks is rapid, accelerating, and filled with opportunity. At the same time, city streets are a finite and scarce resource.

These principles, produced by a working group of international NGOs, are designed to guide urban decision-makers and stakeholders toward the best outcomes for all.

JOIN US!

https://www.sharedmobilityprinciples.org/

The Principles

 

1. WE PLAN OUR CITIES AND THEIR MOBILITY TOGETHER.

The way our cities are built determines mobility needs and how they can be met. Development, urban design and public spaces, building and zoning regulations, parking requirements, and other land use policies shall incentivize compact, accessible, livable, and sustainable cities.

 

2. WE PRIORITIZE PEOPLE OVER VEHICLES.

The mobility of people and not vehicles shall be in the center of transportation planning and decision-making. Cities shall prioritize walking, cycling, public transport and other efficient shared mobility, as well as their interconnectivity. Cities shall discourage the use of cars, single-passenger taxis, and other oversized vehicles transporting one person.

Shared vehicles include all those used for hire to transport people (mass transit, private shuttles, buses, taxis, auto-rickshaws, car and bike-sharing) and urban delivery vehicles.

3. WE SUPPORT THE SHARED AND EFFICIENT USE OF VEHICLES, LANES, CURBS, AND LAND.

Transportation and land use planning and policies should minimize the street and parking space used per person and maximize the use of each vehicle. We discourage overbuilding and oversized vehicles and infrastructure, as well as the oversupply of parking.

4. WE ENGAGE WITH STAKEHOLDERS.

Residents, workers, businesses, and other stakeholders may feel direct impacts on their lives, their investments and their economic livelihoods by the unfolding transition to shared, zero-emission, and ultimately autonomous vehicles. We commit to actively engage these groups in the decision-making process and support them as we move through this transition.

5. WE PROMOTE EQUITY.

Physical, digital, and financial access to shared transport services are valuable public goods and need thoughtful design to ensure use is possible and affordable by all ages, genders, incomes, and abilities.

6. WE LEAD THE TRANSITION TOWARDS A ZERO-EMISSION FUTURE AND RENEWABLE ENERGY.

Public transportation and shared-use fleets will accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles. Electric vehicles shall ultimately be powered by renewable energy to maximize climate and air quality benefits.

7. WE SUPPORT FAIR USER FEES ACROSS ALL MODES.

Every vehicle and mode should pay their fair share for road use, congestion, pollution, and use of curb space. The fair share shall take the operating, maintenance and social costs into account.

The future of mobility in cities is multimodal and integrated. When vehicles are used, they should be right-sized, shared, and zero emission.

8. WE AIM FOR PUBLIC BENEFITS VIA OPEN DATA.

The data infrastructure underpinning shared transport services must enable interoperability, competition and innovation, while ensuring privacy, security, and accountability.

9. WE WORK TOWARDS INTEGRATION AND SEAMLESS CONNECTIVITY.

All transportation services should be integrated and thoughtfully planned across operators, geographies, and complementary modes. Seamless trips should be facilitated via physical connections, interoperable payments, and combined information. Every opportunity should be taken to enhance connectivity of people and vehicles to wireless networks.

10. WE SUPPORT THAT AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES (AVS) IN DENSE URBAN AREAS SHOULD BE OPERATED ONLY IN SHARED FLEETS.

Due to the transformational potential of autonomous vehicle technology, it is critical that all AVs are part of shared fleets, well-regulated, and zero emission. Shared fleets can provide more affordable access to all, maximize public safety and emissions benefits, ensure that maintenance and software upgrades are managed by professionals, and actualize the promise of reductions in vehicles, parking, and congestion, in line with broader policy trends to reduce the use of personal cars in dense urban areas.

 

The Anti-Uber

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A family walking past a bakery in Huron, Calif.JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

HURON, CALIF. — Carmen Lopez, a retired farmworker, keeps a Bible on the back seat of her silver 2003 Honda and crochet hooks and a Spanish-language potboiler in her purse. In her line of work, she waits a lot.

In this isolated agricultural community of 7,000 in the Central Valley, one of the state’s poorest cities and a place where nearly a quarter of households don’t have cars, Mrs. Lopez works as a “raitera” — driving people to the doctor’s office, the courthouse and other places found only in Fresno, 52 miles away. She ferries asthmatic children and women who have overdosed on prescription pills to the hospital, and students who have missed the bus to the high school in another town. She once delivered a baby in her car, which has covered 194,000 miles and counting.

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Carmen Lopez, a raitera in Huron.JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Huron’s mayor, Rey Léon, thinks of the Latino tradition of rural ride sharing as “indigenous Ubers” and has plans to formalize the service. One of seven raiteras in town, Mrs. Lopez now works in exchange for gas money, lunch at a local buffet or taqueria, and the pleasure of some company and conversation. Passengers who can afford it pay $0.50 a mile.

Last week, the founder of the country’s most famous ride-sharing start-up, Uber, agreed to take a leave of absence. The company, valued at an estimated $68 billion, has been tripping over itself in a series of disasters, including allegations of sexual harassment and the exposure of an app cooked up to trick regulators. But anyone who thinks that the future of ride sharing is threatened by Silicon Valley’s misbehavior should look elsewhere, to some of the most isolated parts of America, where intrepid networks of volunteers and entrepreneurs are making it possible for their neighbors to get around.

The indigenous Ubers are a must in Huron, a predominantly Latino city ringed by garlic and tomato fields. There are no real Ubers here; few could afford them anyway. The lone county-operated bus takes nearly three hours to get to Fresno, making 16 stops at even tinier locales like Raisin City (population 380) before turning around four hours later and heading back. A round-trip ticket costs $9.

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A man waits for the Fresno bound bus to come. The trip takes more than three hours.JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Once called Knife Fight City and still plagued by gang violence, Huron seems like an unlikely incubator for renegade transportation ideas. But starting this fall, the city will provide two electric vehicles for use by Mrs. Lopez and others, part of a project called Green Raiteros that is supported by Valley LEAP, a nonprofit Mr. Léon founded. It will employ a longtime raitera as a dispatcher — riders will need only a phone number, no app necessary — and pay drivers a small amount based on the miles they travel. A flotilla of charging stations will open next to pistachio and almond groves on the roads to Fresno.

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The California Public Utilities Commission approved $519,000 to build the stations, and more funding will probably come from a novel policy that sets aside 35 percent of the state’s cap-and-trade auction dollars for clean energy in poor communities. The law is intended to wrestle “EVs” away from “their boutique-ish environment,” said Kevin de León, the state senator who sponsored the bill. “If the market is left to its own devices, it will not correct the inequities that exist,” he said.

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Rey Leon, the mayor of Huron, a city ringed by garlic and tomato fields, has plans to formalize the raitera car services there.JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Green Raiteros and Van y Vienan (“they come and go”), a shared electric van that, starting this summer, will connect nearby tiny Cantua Creek and El Porvenir — twin communities separated by a spine-rattling road — are the latest examples of a movement to democratize ride sharing as a solution to rural isolation. The goal is to lower transportation costs, provide a living wage for drivers and reduce pollution, which is a real problem in this area.

The air is consistently ranked by the American Lung Association as among the country’s worst. Those who have driven the Central Valley’s Highway 99 have probably seen the white scrim that often obscures the Sierra Nevada, a nasty blend of pollutants from tractor-trailers, farm equipment, pesticides and more.

More broadly, “people in rural communities really get social capital,” said Katherine Freund, founder of ITN America, a nonprofit network of more than 700 drivers across the country, most of them volunteers, who give rides to seniors and the visually impaired.

Huron has no movie theater, no newspaper, no pharmacy, and the main highway is impassable in heavy rains. As in many rural towns, increased consolidation — regional schools, hospitals, courthouses and malls — “makes the transportation element more vexing,” said Scott Bogren, the executive director of Community Transportation Association of America.

Silvia Mora, a 52-year-old case manager for a social services agency in Huron, had no car in the 1990s when her baby Minerva, now a 26-year-old teacher, became seriously ill and had to be airlifted to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, 62 miles away. Mrs. Mora had to scrounge for a ride.

Now Mrs. Mora spends one day a week volunteering as a raitera; she recently drove a victim of domestic violence to the Mexican consulate in Fresno to get a passport so that she could apply for a special visa for crime victims. “I tell myself, if I can help this person, why not?” she said from behind the wheel, a crystal angel hanging from her rearview mirror.

SILVIA
Silvia Mora giving a woman a ride to the Mexican Consulate in Fresno. The woman, a domestic abuse victim needed to obtain a Mexican Passport.JIM WILSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES

The Central Valley isn’t the only place where grass-roots models are flourishing. In Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota, drivers for a start-up called Liberty Mobility Now are familiar with 16-mile gravel roads and addresses that don’t exist on Google maps. Passengers pay $1 a mile (the drivers keep up to $0.80), and local social services agencies pay a monthly fee to request rides for clients through an “enterprise portal.” Valerie Lefler, the start-up’s executive, recruits drivers at the local Lions and Rotary Clubs. “Those are the drivers who are going to get out of the car to help you into the hospital and find your doctor,” she said.

In Watertown, N.Y., about 30 miles from the Canadian border, the 25-year-old Volunteer Transportation Center has 250 drivers covering a three-county area the approximate size of Connecticut. Charlie Lehman, a 75-year-old retired teacher, frequently takes people in wheelchairs to dialysis. He has to dodge winter whiteouts and twice totaled his car after hitting deer. The center reimburses drivers for mileage, subsidizing the operation through Medicaid and contracts with local social services agencies. “Our model is about neighbors helping neighbors, versus a side hustle,” said Samuel M. Purington, the agency’s executive director.

These rural areas have “a culture of engagement and a level of benevolence that could be galvanized to create innovative forms of mobility,” said Susan Shaheen, a co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The challenge will be finding ways to make initiatives like Green Raiteros sustainable over the long haul.

Driving in Mrs. Mora’s van, past fruit-packing warehouses and palm trees, I thought about transportation as a human right, like clean air and potable water, and the best way to protect it. At a moment when autonomy is the darling of Silicon Valley, efforts like Mrs. Mora’s represent the opposite: community.


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/17/opinion/sunday/the-anti-uber.html

 

New Funds Boost Clean Car Ridesharing in Central Valley

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 10, 2017

New Funds Boost Clean Car Ridesharing in Central Valley
“Green Raiteros” Will Use EVs to Build on Grassroots Transportation Networks

Contact: Rey Leon, (559) 269-9563

HURON, CALIFORNIA – Recently announced funding will allow creation of a unique, pollution-free transportation service that builds on the informal ridesharing networks already used by local residents.

Administered by EVgo and Valley LEAP and funded by a portion of proceeds from a settlement between the California Public Utilities Commission and NRG, Green Raiteros will build on existing grassroots ridesharing networks run by raiteros, retired farmworkers. The project will operate in the corridor from Huron to Fresno and will improve mobility for low-income residents and demonstrate the feasibility of electric vehicle ridesharing in the Valley.

“Local farmworker communities long ago developed informal ridesharing networks to cope with the Valley’s long distances and the cost of operating a car,” said Valley LEAP executive director Rey León. “We can combine these networks with electric cars to improve reliability, affordability, and help clean our air. We think this pilot program will be the start of something much bigger that will provide a vital resource to our poor rural communities.”

Clean ridesharing in Central Valley communities like Huron is a necessity. The Valley is one of the poorest and most polluted regions in the country. Thirty-five percent of Huron residents carpool to work—double the 14.5 percent state average. The new funding will support the Green Raiteros pilot project with $519,400 over the duration of 15 months to develop a business model tailored to the needs of the Central Valley, build capacity among local communities, deploy charging infrastructure that enables EVs for ridesharing, and expand existing outreach, education, and training programs to help demystify EVs for residents who may be unfamiliar with them.

A kickoff date for the program will be announced shortly.

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