California policymakers are committed to making sure that electric vehicles — and the charging stations and other infrastructure needs associated with them — transform the state’s transportation sector. But it won’t come cheaply.
A review conducted by the San Diego Union-Tribune showed various state agencies have committed $2.46 billion in public funds — some of it already spent and the rest planned over a number of years — for programs aimed at luring drivers out of cars and trucks powered by internal combustion engines and encouraging them into zero- or low-emission vehicles.
And that doesn’t count the $800 million in electric vehicle, or EV, programs that Volkswagen is spending across the state as part of an unprecedented settlement to help resolve the car maker’s emissions scandal. A state entity — the California Air Resources Board — is overseeing how and where the money is spent.
When the VW settlement is taken into account, investments to electrify California’s transportation landscape go well north of $3 billion, thus far.
“For the average person, that’s a big number, when you’re talking about billions,” said Carla Peterman, who recently completed a six-year term as a commissioner at the California Public Utilities Commission. “But when you look at the actual transportation sector and how much money goes annually into infrastructure and fuel, it’s a small amount.”
The two largest portions of the money come from a pair of the most influential agencies in state government — the utilities commission, or CPUC, and the California Air Resources Board, also known as CARB.
The CPUC has set aside $1.048 billion for various EV programs, with a lot of emphasis on constructing charging stations. The money comes from ratepayer fees collected by the three investor-owned utilities the CPUC oversees — San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric.
The air resources board has budgeted a slightly higher amount — $1.087 billion.
More than half goes to the state’s rebate program that is offered to Californians who buy or lease low- or no-emissions vehicles the state deems eligible, such as battery-electric and plug-in hybrids.
The standard rebate gives Californians $2,500 who buy or lease battery-electric vehicles, $1,500 for plug-in hybrids and $5,000 for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Lower income drivers can get more, while high-income drivers are subject to caps.
Another $423 million of CARB’s efforts go to zero-emission trucks, buses and other vehicles to rid 10,000 tons of noxious nitrogen oxide from California’s air.
The vast majority of the dollars CARB reserves for its EV initiatives comes from money raised via the state’s cap-and-trade program, the trading system put in place to reduce greenhouse gases.
A third state agency — the California Energy Commission — also spends money on EV adoption programs, but to a lesser extent. Using money largely from Department of Motor Vehicles registration fees, the commission will spend $230 million through January 2024 to build refueling stations for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
The CEC expects to spend another $95 million by the end of this year on charging stations and other EV programs, although the commission said the numbers may eventually exceed $200 million.
The EV push didn’t happen on its own.
A combination of legislation, executive branch decisions and directives from regulatory bodies have resulted in a slew of programs aimed at remaking the auto sector.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown originally set a goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the state’s roads by 2025 but last year issued an executive order that dramatically increased the number to 5 million by 2030.
Electric transportation programs in California
CPUC (programs funded by ratepayers)
approximately $780 million in “transportation electrification projects” the commission in 2018 directed the state’s three big investor-owned utilities (San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric) to implement over five years
$42 million for pilot programs by the three utilities
$7.3 million that three of California’s smaller investor-owned utilities were told to spend on electrification projects
$44 million for Edison’s “Charge Ready” pilot program
$45 million for SDG&E’s “Power Your Drive” program that is expected to wrap up in the next few months. SDG&E anticipates 3,000 chargers will be installed across its service territory.
$130 million for PG&E to spend on light-duty EV infrastructure programs
TOTAL: $1.0483 billion
California Energy Commission
$230 million through Jan. 1, 2024, to build refueling stations for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The energy commission has already spent $120 million. The funding comes from fees from vehicle registration, identification plates and smog abatement.
$95 million is expected to be spent by the commission by the end of 2019 on various EV programs, including charging stations. Eventually, these programs may total as much as $200 million. The funding comes from a portion of DMV registration fees.
TOTAL: $325 million (but could exceed $400 million)
California Air Resources Board
$423 million for zero-emission trucks, buses and other vehicles to rid 10,000 tons of noxious nitrogen oxide from California’s air. The money will come from proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade program and, in the case of heavy-duty vehicles, some bond money.
$621.7 million goes to fund the state’s passenger vehicle rebate program for consumers buying or leasing low- or no-emission vehicles. ($338.4 million came from the state’s cap-and-trade auction proceeds.)
$42 million for the Clean Cars 4 All Program that provides incentives to lower-income California drivers to scrap their older, high-polluting vehicles and replace them with EVs. It’s paid for with cap-and-trade money.
TOTAL: $1.0867 billion
Volkswagen settlement (funded by the carmaker and overseen by CARB)
$800 million to be invested in California over a 10-year period for EV infrastructure and public education via Electrify America, a VW subsidiary.
GRAND TOTAL: $2.46 billion
When the $800 million from the VW settlement is added, $3.26 billion has been or will be spent in California on various EV programs, including infrastructure.
Sources: California Public Utilities Commission, California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission