Gov. Brown signs laws that might help EV adoption while causing other problems

Over the weekend California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a list of bills focusing on climate change issues, some of which would expand support for electric cars.  I’ve seen some in the EV community applaud these moves, but I see a mixed bag of some things which might be useful and others where I have a hard time supporting.  Adding more solo-driven cars to the High Occupancy lanes simply diminishes or maybe destroys their real purpose.

The best of them might provide some relief to people like me, EV owners living in an apartment building where the building manager won’t allow us to install charging stations.  But even that bill has its problems, and I doubt it will help much in practice.

AB 1721 and AB 2013  and AB 2090 and SB 1298 all have to do with High Occupancy lanes on highways (both HOV and HOT lanes).  There may be some good ideas in this legislation, but most of the laws concern increasing the variety of vehicles where a solo driver can use an HOV or HOT lane for free.  Up until now electrified vehicle drivers had this perk, and those driving CNG vehicles.  The bills expand this perk to SULEV and AT-PZEV drivers as well.

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The purpose of High Occupancy lanes is to reduce traffic congestion.  A solo driven vehicle does nothing to reduce traffic congestion.  However, giving green and white stickers PHEV’s and BEV’s, in California, encourages drivers of those vehicles to drive solo in high occupancy lanes.
In other words, the value of High Occupancy lanes is already diminishing.  Indeed, one of those bills has to do with eliminating some required performance thresholds on High Occupancy lanes, in certain counties, requiring that those counties renegotiate High Occupancy lane performance goals with the Dept. of Transportation.  One of those counties is Santa Clara County, a place which has seen perhaps the highest rate of electric vehicle adoption in the country.
I don’t drive much during rush hour and therefore don’t know if the HOV/HOT lanes are being dominated by EV drivers.  I do know that the green and white stickers have been a huge purchase incentive, that the car dealers have exploited to gain sales.
And now the State of California is going to expand the sticker program to include cars that can’t even be plugged in to run on electricity.  Sheesh.
We need to call a halt to this perk and return the HOV/HOT lanes to their original purpose – that of reducing traffic congestion.
The last two laws are closer to what I’d say actually support electric vehicle adoption – maybe.

AB 2565 is something I’ve written about before – It requires landlords of multi-unit dwellings to allow residents to install charging stations, so long as certain conditions are met.  As the occupant of an apartment in an apartment building where the building owner isn’t allowing me to install a charging station, I welcome a move in this direction.  BUT, I’ve studied this bill closely and find it would be difficult for the average joe apartment renter to comply with the requirements.  Therefore I don’t think it will have much benefit.

Evade blocked charging stations with one of these handy J1772 extension cords.

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Namely – The bill requires the renter (not the landlord) to come up with an installation plan, a business model, and a $1 million insurance policy indemnifying against damage.  Hoooboy are those high hurdles to jump.  I’ve looked closely at the apartment complex where I live, and see a lot of trenching to be required, at high cost.

SB 1275 wants to increase access to electric vehicles for people in disadvantaged or low-income communities.  That’s a laudable goal, but is it practical?  People in those communities suffer from an excess amount of air pollution because those communities also contain a lot of heavy industry and in some cases operations like oil refineries.  It would be more than cool for there to be more battery electric vehicles in those communities.

But, is this a practical reality?  The current crop of electrified vehicles (whether BEV or PHEV) are on the expensive side, and the prospects for reducing their cost to where it’s affordable to a low-income person are slim-to-none.  The typical low-income persons are driving junkers because that’s all they can afford, and they’re stuck driving cars because our cities are designed for cars and not for walkability or mass transit.
The most feasible way of deploying electric vehicles in such a community is to encourage the heavy industry operating there to adopt electric trucks.  Electric big trucks do exist and are a topic of research, trying to improve the economics so businesses will adopt them.  Big truck electrification has a lot of potential for gain because of the cost of diesel versus the cost of electricity.  A commercial fleet operator potentially can save gigabucks on the difference between those prices.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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