Plug-In Electric Vehicles: California Remains the Hub of the Emerging Electric Vehicle Industry

Diane Wittenberg

On Dec. 13, 2010, the newly-created Plug-In Vehicle Collaborative released a report called, “Taking Charge: Establishing California Leadership in the Plug-in Electric Vehicle Marketplace.” The report includes 30 suggested actions to develop an electrified transportation system in California. With a slew of electric vehicles hitting the market over the coming year, California is positioning itself as the point of entry for the new technology of the future and demonstrating the power of creative partnerships between the private and public sectors. The following are excerpts from a series of presentations at a press conference at Universal Studios announcing the Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative and the report.

Steve Nissen, Vice President, Legal and Government Affairs, NBC Universal: Good morning everyone, and welcome to Universal Studios, Hollywood. We call ourselves the entertainment capital of Los Angeles, but today we are also serving as the idea and innovation capital of Los Angeles at this very exciting event. Thank you, Ed Bagley, for being both champion of the environment and, equally important, for being an example to the rest of us of how to become environmental champions. It is my distinct pleasure to introduce the chair of the California Air Resources Board, Mary Nichols. Mary Nichols is responsible for implementing California’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions legislation and for setting air pollution standards for motor vehicles and fuels. Mary’s career has been dedicated to protecting the environment from the time I first met her, when she was prosecuting cases locally here in Los Angeles to enforce clean air laws to leading the state of California as secretary of the natural resources agency under Governor Gray Davis to serving our nation under President Clinton in the U.S. EPA. Mary Nichols is a true environmental visionary. She is the right person at the right time to ensure that California will remain a leader in clean air and green technology.

Mary Nichols, Chair, California Air Resources Board: Thank you, Steve, for that introduction. Thanks also to Universal, for rolling out the green carpet this morning and showcasing some of the vehicles that are going to drive the future of California. Plug-in cars are cool. They’re green. They’re sexy. And they’re fast. Best of all, they are coming to California by the tens of thousands, beginning this year. All the car companies are betting that customers will love them once they get their hands on them. And we in government believe so strongly in the energy, power, and environmental benefits of plug-ins that we have joined hands, not only with the manufacturers, but also with the fuel suppliers, otherwise known as the electric utilities, the people who make charging stations and equipment, local and regional governments, air pollution regulators, consumers, and public health advocates to make sure that the road to electric vehicle adoption is as smooth and straightforward as possible for the customer.

This broad-based coalition has one goal: to ensure that California remains a hub of the emerging electric vehicle industry. This goal enjoys the enthusiastic support not only of our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and our governor-elect, Jerry Brown, but also the blessing of the president and, perhaps even better, some precious tax breaks from the federal government that have bi-partisan approval. That is a very good thing because by 2025, to meet our air quality emissions goals, we need to have about 250,000 battery and plug-in hybrids sold in California every single year.

Now, think of all the jobs that are involved in making, selling, and servicing those cars and their parts—an economic future built on our state’s goal as the center of the car culture. Today as we release our first Plug-In Vehicle Strategic Plan, I want to congratulate the researchers from U.C. Davis, the collaborative members who have helped guide this effort, and everybody else involved in coming together around this vision to make it a reality in the months ahead.

Diane Wittenberg, Chair, Plug-in Vehicle Collaborative: We’re here today to introduce our new report, Taking Charge: Establishing California Leadership in the Plug-In Electric Vehicle Marketplace. In a nutshell, this report spotlights the challenge: if PEV sales don’t reach 100,000 cars per year in California over the next decade, PEVs won’t be sustainable; they won’t be successfully seeded into the marketplace.

We’ve attempted to overview the efforts needed and help systematize that approach, bringing the correct players to the table. It’s about bridging the gap from the early adopters, who will accept almost any tribulation to get their car, to the average person, who needs simple answers to questions about buying a plug-in vehicle.
At the beginning of July, the idea of this report, which is now ready for publication and on our website, was like dust under the bed, until the U.C. Davis transportation studies and the Plug-in Electric Vehicle Center began to  engage in writing this report...This was really a great team effort. With all of these “braniacs” set loose on the project, the public-private sector said, “I think we need to advise them.” So the PEV Collaborative pulled itself together and offered solid advice on the report-creation so that it wouldn’t be too academic and it would be consumer friendly...

What does the report say? There are six goals and high-level recommendations, over 30 action items. We tried to focus on recommendations that would best be achieved by working together, like issues of public charging, overnight charging, utility notification, local government leadership, permitting and inspection, and policy. We touch on all of those in the report as the starting place to pull together everything that’s been done and move forward from here. The full report, as I said, is available only at the Collaborative website. This will be a positive handicap for success for smooth, successful, mainstream adoption of plug-in vehicles.

Ted Craver, President and CEO, Edison International: Edison International is pleased to be part of the PEV Collaborative as one of the several utilities involved. The benefits of electric vehicles are many, but just to highlight a few that make Edison particularly excited to be part of this: first, they are exceptionally cheaper to operate than conventional vehicles, somewhere between one-third to half as expensive; they are also considerably less emitting, somewhere close to 70 percent less. One thing that isn’t as well recognized is that our electricity in the nation is produced nearly entirely from domestic resources, so there’s a strong energy security component to using electricity to fuel our transportation. As the assemblywoman just mentioned, this is a new industry that presents terrific opportunities to create new jobs and a vibrant economy. One of the things that’s most important to have a strong electric vehicle market is to have the early customer experiences be very positive. To have positive customer experiences, our consumers need to be informed and able to make informed decisions. To that end, there are a number of activities that Edison International is involved in—I co-chair the Electric Drive Transportation Association, which has a website, which is really the new hub for all the information regarding electric vehicles. Edison International is very pleased to be part of this Collaborative, to be part of the new sustainable electric vehicle market.

Tracy Woodard, Director, Government Affairs, Nissan North America, Inc.: Utilities and automakers are now sharing customers and working together like never before. I’m proud to be here representing Nissan and the automotive industry. I’ve been working on this day for about two and a half years, so I am glad we are here. We have joined together with all of the other entities you see represented here today, and it’s a major commitment to ensure the success of plug-in vehicles, the development of charging infrastructure, and the policies that will support them. The California PEV Collaborative sees the future—electricity is the new fuel for cars. These cars have the potential to transform the automotive industry and the way people drive. We have an opportunity to make a significant improvement on climate change, air quality, and quality of life through the mass adoption of plug-in electric vehicles. California can be the model for others to follow. The Collaborative is working to fit all of the pieces together and create a roadmap for a systematic, customer-focused approach so consumers can adopt these clean, cutting-edge vehicles, and the automotive industry is doing their part to bring cars like the ones you see here to the market. On Saturday, the first worldwide customer delivery of a Nissan Leaf was made in California. It will be the first of many deliveries of plug-in vehicles to come in the next year. We are looking forward to working with other members of the Collaborative to make California the leader in adoption of plug-in vehicles and the model for others to follow in electrifying the transportation sector. •••

The full “Taking Charge” report is available at