Equality is a goal, not a mandate, in California’s electric car rule

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Discounted prices, car-sharing programs and at least a million more public charging stations are among the ways California will try to make it easier to buy and drive electric cars as it phases out the sale gasoline cars.

But the state won’t force automakers to participate in equity programs designed to make sure people of all income levels can buy electric cars.

“This rule had an opportunity to really set the path for lower-income households to have increased access and affordability (for) electric vehicles, but it missed the mark,” said Roman Partida-Lopez, transportation legal counsel at the The Greenlining Institute.

Instead, car companies will get extra credit toward their sales quotas if they make cars available to carpools or other programs aimed at disadvantaged Californians. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged $10 billion over six years for incentives to get electric vehicles into the hands of low-income residents, charging infrastructure and other efforts to get cleaner cars and trucks on the market.

The Stockton Mobility Collective is an example. Designed to increase transportation options in disadvantaged parts of the city, the collective will create five to seven neighborhood charging stations with 30 electric cars that people can rent on an hourly or daily basis. The first cars and charging stations rolled out last week at an apartment complex. The program got $7.4 million from the state.

Car ownership in South Stockton is low, so interest in the program is high, said Christine Corrales, senior regional manager for the program. But it’s just the first step in an important effort to make electric vehicles a realistic option for lower-income Californians.

“If the infrastructure isn’t available locally, it can be difficult to encourage people to adopt and switch,” he said. “That’s something we try to be proactive about.”

Regulations approved by the California Air Resources Board last week say that in 2035 the state will require automakers to sell only cars that run on electricity or hydrogen, though some may be plug-in hybrids that use gas and batteries. People will still be able to buy used cars that run on natural gas, and car companies will still sell some plug-in hybrids. Beyond issues of affordability and access, the state will need to overcome the skepticism of people who believe that electric cars are just not for them.

“We need to get past the elitism associated with owning an electric car,” said Daniel Myatt, who brought an electric car in 2020 through the state’s Clean Cars 4 All program, which he qualified for when he was out of work due to a disease.

Since 2015, more than 13,000 electric cars have been purchased through the program. It offers people up to $9,500 to trade in their gas cars for electric or hybrid models.

About 38% of the money spent on a separate rebate program has gone to low-income or disadvantaged communities, and the state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build charging stations in those neighborhoods. Today, however, there are just 80,000 public charging stations statewide, far short of the 1.2 million the state estimates it needs by 2030.

Under the new regulations, automakers can get extra credit for their sales quotas if they participate in multiple stock programs.

These programs include: Selling cars at a discount to car-share or other community programs. make sure cars coming off lease go to California dealers participating in trade-in programs; or selling cars at a discounted price. To satisfy the third option, cars would have to cost less than $20,275 and light trucks less than $26,670 to qualify for the extra credit. It only applies to 2026 to 2028 models and there is no limit to who these cars can be sold to.

EVen Access of Southern California is using a $2.5 million state grant to install at least 120 chargers in a 12-county area, in apartment complexes and public spaces such as library parking lots. Apartment complex owners can receive $2,500 per charger installed on the property.

Overall, the state should do more public messaging about the programs available to buy electric vehicles so that all communities can enjoy the benefits of fewer cars that emit pollutants and pollution, said Lujuana Medina, administrator of environmental initiatives for Los Angeles County. The state also needs to invest in a workforce that can support an electric transportation economy, he said.

“There should be some really progressive public purpose programs to help drive the adoption and sales of electric vehicles,” he said.

Alicia Young of Santa Clara, California, wasn’t sure when she first heard about the state’s trade-in program. But she eventually kept the deal, ditching the 2006 Nissan for a plug-in hybrid from Ford. It cost $9,000 after its trade-in value.

The car runs smoother and just as fast as any gas car he has ever owned. He runs it mostly on battery charges, though he still fills up the gas tank about once a month. The apartment complex where she lives with her mother doesn’t have a car charger, so she often relies on charging stations at the grocery store or other public places.

She shared information about the exchange program with her colleagues at the senior center where she works, but many of them seemed skeptical, she said. The state could accelerate adoption by having public messengers from a wide variety of backgrounds to help build confidence in electric cars, he said.

“It’s a little different at first, but that’s normal with any new car,” he said.

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