February 28, 2023

California Takes the Lead: EV Adoption and Electrification Initiatives of the Golden State


7 Min. Read

California is leading the charge on the electric vehicle (EV) initiative. The state is pushing for a ban on the sale of new internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2035. This means that in less than 12 years, California intends to turn away from the current standard mode of transportation in favor of clean energy.

Nearly 40% of EVs in the United States were owned by people living in the Golden State in 2022. There is a rising need for EV charging installers in California as it is crucial to have the capabilities to charge those EVs.

Pushing for the completion of the EV initiative by 2035 comes with its own challenges as California work to resolve issues with its existing network of direct current fast charging (DCFC) stations.

Nearly 23% of the DCFC stations in the California Bay Area have issues to which California is actively pursuing solutions. While the stations will occasionally have problems with completing transactions or cable difficulties, EV owners are actively pursuing more reliable options for charging their cars, especially as increased demand for charging stations also leads to inconsistent availability.

The issues of a public charging network go beyond the concerns of rolling blackouts or a lack of power, and some believe the push for EVs will crash the electric grid. Experts disagree, and Eric Cahill, the senior strategic business planner for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), discusses this matter at length with State of Charge host and EV expert, Tom Moloughney. Cahill believes the minor hiccups being encountered now will not be an obstacle by the time the complete conversion to EVs is in effect.

What is the incentive behind California’s push for EV adoption and why does this energy transition matter? Several factors play into the state pushing for these changes.

  • State funding and incentives
  • Charging station availability
  • Gas prices and non-EV effects

State Funding and Incentives

In addition to federal funding in support of electrification, California has multiple rebates, incentive programs, and tax credits available for individuals and companies. These incentive programs are not only for the purchase of the vehicles themselves but also for the installation of charging stations in commercial settings, lessening the financial burden of transitioning to an electric vehicle and increasing the accessibility and adoption of EVs.

Individuals can receive greater financial returns by utilizing these incentives, based on their level of electrification investment when converting from an ICE to an EV. For example, when purchasing a plug-in hybrid vehicle car buyers can typically qualify for rebates ranging from between $1,000 and $3,500, whereas the rebates and incentives for purchasing a fuel cell EV can be twice that amount.

California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard is part of the state’s push to combat greenhouse gas emissions and aids in the cost of at-home EV charging installers in California. The main goal of this rebate is to reward EV drivers for helping to reduce emissions and it can cover up to a year and a half of electric charging costs.

There is a current push to surpass the number of public charging stations from approximately 80,000 to upwards of 250,000 by 2025 and an Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit was implemented to aid in the adoption of these measures, specifically for commercial property owners.

The allotment of funding to support these measures has increased by 3,000% compared to the available allowance in 2019. While this funding isn’t targeted towards companies and commercial owners, individual homeowners have options for taking advantage of these benefits as well.

Charging Station Availability

Many of the issues drivers experience with charging stations are for Level 3 chargers, which can be challenging if this is their main source of charging their electric car. While Level 3 charging may be convenient, you should avoid using them as a primary energy source as they can lead to significant battery degradation when used more than three times a month.

Level 3 charging stations use direct current or DC energy at high voltages, which can quickly cause degradation of the battery and the cells when used consistently. This increases the EV owner’s costs, as replacing a battery can cost upwards of 30% of the EV’s original value.

Furthermore, the $3 billion that has been set aside for funding is exclusively for Level 2 charging stations. Level 2 EV charging stations are a common level of charging in commercial settings, such as job sites, and for at-home charging as they provide a convenient full charge in 4-10 hours, depending on the make and model of the car and charger.

Keep in mind that EV charging best practices recommend keeping a charge no greater than 80% and it will take less time to reach this recommended charge level as opposed to a full charge. Many EV models come pre-equipped with settings that end the charging cycle upon hitting the recommended state of charge.

Having Level 2 chargers as the primary power source does not lessen the impact of malfunctioning Level 3 charging stations. As California pushes towards becoming fully electric, this also means increased job opportunities, including maintenance personnel who can ensure these stations stay in running order.

EV owners will typically have access to Level 1 or Level 2 charging stations when they are home. Part of the “master plan” in increasing funding will be to place EV charging stations in as many places as possible, increasing charging accessibility for all drivers.

Currently, only some people park in lots designated for EVs and Level 3 charging stations may be the most convenient option based on time restraints, especially for those without at-home charging capabilities. Cities such as Los Angeles are installing EV charging stations in more accessible spots. The city has already installed 11,000 charging stations in many convenient public locations such as libraries, government buildings, and parks.

The next stage in the adoption of EV chargers is to have curbside and lamp post-mounted charging stations. Increasing the accessibility of charging stations is one of the main hurdles that needs to be crossed as EV adoption continues to rise.

Gas Prices and Non-EV Effects

EV adoption rates tend to be much higher in areas of the country where gas rates are greater. For example, electric vehicle adoption rates in Northeastern parts of the U.S. range between 1-2% on average per 100,000 people, and the West Coast is even higher.

This data alone shows there may be a direct correlation between the cost of gas and the adoption of electric vehicles, and the electrification of transportation might be even greater in these areas if it weren’t for less than ideal weather conditions for EV range and charging rates, particularly in regions with extreme seasons. While fluctuations in range and vehicle efficiency based on extreme temperatures are not exclusive to electric vehicle, they can result in a significant reduction in battery effectiveness for electric vehicles.

The largest push for these changes in California is the effects of ICEs on the environment. Between the direct exhaust from vehicles and the overall impacts of fossil fuels, there have been changes in the atmosphere with rising sea levels and increasing temperatures.

California aims to reduce pollution in some of the most congested and highly polluted areas and new policies for this build on the 2015 Los Angeles Sustainability Plan and the 2019 Los Angeles Green New Deal. Incentives for home EV charger installation in Los Angeles and the other main cities in the state are a testament to the goals of these policies in reducing emissions and pollution.

Push for Zero Emissions

Based on California’s current timeline, ICEs will no longer be readily available in 12 years and only zero-emission vehicles, or ZEVs, will be prevalent in reducing those greenhouse gases. More and more charging stations are being built to supply the power needed to support the anticipated rise in electric cars on the road.

California and its engineers still have some time to figure out how to create a steady transition from ICE users to EV users. However, if that transition scales up quicker than the technology can handle it, the problem could be less about whether the charging stations are functional and more about whether there is enough power for them. Even so, leaders in the state are confident in the ability to adapt and manage this increased load with improved infrastructure.

As a whole, the country is moving toward reducing greenhouse gases and adopting environmentally focused technologies, such as electric vehicles. Major California cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Francisco are all great representations of that goal.

While Level 3 charging is an excellent option on road trips or when you need to quickly charge your EV, it’s not recommended for regular use for many reasons. It’s important to develop strategies and charging options that can power your EV conveniently, economically, and consistently.

Finding a Charging Solution

Having Level 1 or Level 2 charging stations installed at home or readily available in multifamily and commercial properties is a major step in providing accessible and logical EV charging solutions for drivers and easing the transition to clean energy transportation methods.

Qmerit is here to help you find the right solutions and the correct electrical contractor for the job. With the largest network of certified electricians in North America, Qmerit is the most trusted electrification solutions provider recommended by auto manufacturers, EV charging providers, utilities, property owners, and homeowners alike.

Qmerit offers simple and seamless electrification and EV charging station installations – no matter the scope of your project. Whether you’re a homeowner or the owner of multifamily and commercial properties, Qmerit can help.

Author: Greg Sowder

Greg Sowder

President, Qmerit Network