Five Reasons Why EVs Will Love L.A.

Last week, I was fortunate to meet with two of the people driving Los Angeles’ transition to plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs). Beth Jines, the Director of Sustainability for the City of Los Angeles, and Sarah Potts, City Director of Los Angeles for the Clinton Climate Initiative, are working together to navigate the complex issues of vehicle electrification and getting support from consumers and the private sector. They discussed how and why L.A. will be a leader in PEV adoption.

Here are the top reasons why this L.A. marriage will last longer than most:

– Air quality: The City is out of compliance with the federal Clean Air Act and cleaning up transportation is one of the most cost-effective methods of reducing the negative impact of carbon emissions on health.

– Commuting pattern: The majority of L.A.-area drivers (70 percent) have a commute of 30 miles or less, so even battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) have more than enough range to get drivers to and from work on a single charge. Because so much of that time is spent in stop-and-go or stop-and-stay-stopped traffic, the financial savings from using PEVs that shut off when the vehicle would have been idling are maximized. During a typical 8-mile 40-minute commute, PEV drivers would be spending pennies for power instead of dollars on gas.

– Vehicle ownership: According to a survey of Angelinos by the Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA, 60 percent of residents already have two or more cars, so using a PEV or BEV as a commuting car while having an ICE vehicle for the long trips does not require a huge shift in behavior. The city also has a very high ownership rate of hybrid vehicles and consumers who have experience with vehicle electrification are more likely to move up to a PEV.

– Driving culture: L.A. folks love their cars and many of them would not likely switch to public transit even if the meager system currently in place were significantly expanded.

– Publicly-owned utility: The Los Angeles Department of Power and Water has established Time of Use (TOU) pricing rates for charging EVs which will encourage off-peak charging, which will minimize the strain on the power grid. PEV purchasers will be provided with a smart meter if the EV charging equipment does not include one. Getting utility buy-in is essential to a positive EV ownership experience.

All of these positive factors contribute to Pike Research’s prediction that through the end of 2017, nearly 100,000 PEVs will be sold (or leased) in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area. PEV sales will grow from 3,723 in 2011 to 22,631 in 2017, for a CAGR of 35.1 percent.

The L.A. metro area ranks second only to New York in projected PEV sales in the United States, according to the Pike Research Electric Vehicle Forecasts report.

However, L.A. also faces a significant challenge in electrifying the passenger vehicle fleet – providing readily-accessible charging infrastructure to its residents. In Los Angeles, 65 percent of families live in multi-unit dwellings, and 20 percent of those surveyed by UCLA park their cars on the street. Providing convenient charging to this “mid-adopter” group is critical to the acceptance of PEVs. This can be accomplished on two fronts – by streamlining the process for permitting electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) installation in condos and apartment complexes, and investing in public infrastructure in the places people park.

The city is requiring that builders run the conduit to enable PEV charging in 5 percent of parking spaces in new buildings. The metro agency is reviewing the installation of EVSEs for folks who drive to a bus or train station. In addition, Los Angeles needs to integrate EVSEs in parking lots, and encourage retailers and employers to offer EVSEs for those without convenient access to charging in or near their homes if the city is to reach its goals for vehicle electrification.

Article by John Gartner, appearing courtesy the Matter Network.

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