North Bay electric vehicle sales near California goals, but charger installs lag far behind
The North Bay has nearly half the chargers in place needed to power up the number of electric vehicles called for in a statewide plan to phase out gasoline-powered transportation as part of a sweeping effort to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in the next two and half decades — or sooner.
And MCE and Sonoma Clean Power, two not-for-profit public agencies tasked with providing mostly renewable energy to most of the six local counties, have been busy piecing together funding and incentives to get more chargers installed as well as lining up renewable energy projects to power them. These agencies move the power they source over Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s distribution network.
“Approximately 80% of EV charging is done at home, and MCE is focused on installing EV chargers at multifamily properties and workplaces, which are lagging behind in EV adoption,” said Dawn Weisz, CEO of MCE, which stands for Marin Clean Energy. It is California’s first community choice aggregation (CCA) program and provides electricity to over 540,000 customer accounts (representing over 1 million residents and businesses) in 36 participating localities in Contra Costa, Marin, Napa and Solano counties.
The MCE serves have reached 52% of the number of Level 1 and Level 2 chargers the state wants for rapid adoption of EVs, Weisz said.
To catch up with installations for those categories of EV drivers, the agency has extended rebates to owners of commercial and multifamily buildings to install Level 2 charging stations.
“We’ve installed over 900 ports to date with an estimated 600 additional in progress,” Weisz said. “MCE is also actively involved with Solano County and the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. Our next goal is to start planning or installing an additional 1,000 ports by March 2023.”
The agency also has a $4.3 million partnership with Contra Costa Transportation Authority for another 785 charging stations at apartment and commercial buildings in low-income areas of that county in the next two years.
Sonoma Clean Power is helping the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project to fund Level 2 and DC fast-charging stations through the Sonoma Coast Incentive Project, according to spokesperson Kate Kelly.
Through that program, funding has been reserved for 184 Level 2 connectors and 44 DC fast chargers. Of those, six Level 2 connectors have already been installed — four in Sebastopol and two in the Mendocino County community of Elk. While supply-chain issues have caused delays in installations, the remainder are set to come on line over the course of the next year, Kelly said.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018 set an objective via executive order to put 5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2030 and power up 250,000 EV charging stations by 2025 — three years from now.
And current Gov. Gavin Newsom took that further in 2020, ordering that all new cars and trucks sold in the state must be ZEVs by 2035.
Brisk local EV sales, but charger installs lag
Based on state data, the North Bay is well on the way (86%) toward reaching the number of new sales of ZEVs needed to meet the 2025 statewide target but is well behind (44%) in installing chargers that are accessible to the public or to tenants of commercial or apartment buildings.
Based on California Energy Commission projections for meeting the 2025 statewide target, the North Bay should have about 5,800 chargers installed to replenish nearly 54,500 EVs that would need to be rolling in the region by that time.
The commission figures that almost 2,600 chargers are in use, based on its quarterly survey and tallies of public and shared private units listed by the Alternative Fuels Data Center and PlugShare. In the lead proportionately is Napa County, with 393 chargers in use, or 76% of its 2025 target, followed by Mendocino, 160 (49%); Solano, 471 (44%); Sonoma, 794 (41%); and Lake, 14 (11%).
And nearly 47,000 ZEVs had been sold to North Bay residents as of the first quarter of this year, based on commission analysis of Department of Motor Vehicles data. Marin County leads in proportional progress, with almost 18,000 sold, or 109% of its 2025 goal, followed by Napa, 4,077 (92%); Sonoma, 14,993 (79%); Solano, 8,334 (74%); Mendocino, 1,091 (47%); and Lake, 426 (44%).
More cars and chargers means more power sources
All these EVs will require more power to supply the chargers. The U.S. Energy Department estimates that electricity use in the country will go up by 40% by 2050 with more widespread use of chargers for the vehicles.