Welcoming Electric Cars to the Central Valley


On May 27, 2015 a family of eight from Stockton, CA, will retire their 1984 Ford Ranger. From now on, they'll be driving a 2013 Toyota Prius Plug In Hybrid.

How can this family afford to make the switch from a high-polluting car that gets poor gas mileage to an efficient clean vehicle that can run on electricity and gasoline? By putting a price on pollution to reduce emissions, California is funding incentive programs that help those who are disproportionately burdened by dangerous air pollution and the cost of transportation.

Many Californians have been able to upgrade to newer, cleaner, more efficient cars, thanks to a rebate program made possible via Senator Pavley's "Clean Cars for All" (SB 459, 2013) and Senator De León's "Charge Ahead California Initiative" (SB 1275, 2014). The program is now expanding and the day the Mendoza family turns in their Ranger marks the first day Californians will be able to receive a rebate to upgrade to plug-in electric vehicles.

But the rebate is not the only cost benefit for this family. With eight people all going different directions, driving to work, driving kids to activities, the Mendozas spend a lot of money on fuel every day. When they plug in their Prius using a standard home electrical outlet, the electricity they'll use to meet most daily driving needs will be the cost equivalent of about $1 per gallon gasoline, and when the car switches to hybrid mode on longer trips, they'll enjoy significant savings on gasoline because of the improved fuel economy.

In addition to saving money on fuel, they'll have a more reliable vehicle that costs less to maintain and is significantly safer than the 30 year-old pick up they'll be replacing.

Upgrading to a car that can drive on electricity with no tailpipe emissions is important for Central Valley families that are exposed to some of the nation's worst air pollution. According to the American Lung Association, 100 percent electric fleet in California running on electricity that is one-third renewable would avoid: $13 billion in health, climate, and other societal damages annually, 10,000 asthma attacks every year and 275 tons of criteria pollutants every day. Petroleum-based transportation fuels not only cause dangerous air, but are also responsible for 38 percent of the California's global warming pollution.

The new rebate program is funded through a key component of California's plan to tackle global warming, the cap-and-trade program, which requires the state's largest emitters to acquire a shrinking pool of permits (known as allowances) for every ton of pollution they emit. This puts a price on pollution to help level the playing field for clean energy. It also puts a hard limit on pollution to ensure California achieves emissions reduction targets. Proceeds derived from the auctioning of those allowances can be reinvested in programs to reduce pollution, like this one that replaces older, polluting vehicles with newer plug-in vehicles.

This program is part of the Charge Ahead California Initiative, authored by Senate President Pro-Tempore Kevin De León and signed by Governor Brown in September 2014, which aims to place 1 million zero-emission and near-zero-emission vehicles on the road by the year 2023, and to ensure that low-income communities have access to and direct benefits from these clean vehicles. The Charge Ahead California Initiative directs the Air Resources Board to establish an income cap on electric car rebates and to create equity programs, including a car-sharing pilot program for disadvantaged communities and incentives for Californians to retire high polluting vehicles and replace them with clean vehicles.

The Charge Ahead California is led by the Coalition for Clean Air, Communities for a Better Environment, Environment California, The Greenlining Institute, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and has widespread backing from a diverse set of business, environmental, health, minority and religious groups, who have all recognized the need to move beyond oil and to ensure every community benefits from cleaner transportation.

As part of the rollout of the electric vehicle rebate, Charge Ahead California has arranged for a variety of electric vehicles to be on hand for test drives and demonstrations at the regularly scheduled Tune In & Tune Up event at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 30. (Tune In & Tune Up events offer residents free smog tests.) At the events, San Joaquin Valley residents who have owned their car for at least six months can qualify for a voucher for up to $850 towards the cost of needed emission-related repairs. Free emissions tests and vouchers are administered by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and Valley Clean Air Now.

This is an exciting and important week for electric vehicles and for people in California. Transitioning to cleaner and more efficient cars, trucks and buses will benefit every Californian.