Today’s Solutions: May 22, 2022

We recently discussed California’s plan to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035. While we applaud the ambitious climate action plan, it’s no secret that moving to all-electric vehicle sales in 15 years is a logistical feat. Today we examine critical infrastructure changes that would make this transition feasible. 

The first infrastructure component that would need to be addressed is the electricity grid. California already operates close to its energy generation limit and millions of more electric cars would push the state over the limit. At the moment, electric vehicles use about one percent of the state’s electricity, but California would need to generate about 24 percent more energy if its 15 million registered cars went electric. This means a major overhaul of grids to make them more reliable (check out our article on quantum computing to learn more).

The next step is using public works to facilitate the transition. California had a massive homelessness problem even before the economic downturn of the pandemic and current unemployment rates in the state stand at about 13 percent. Capitalizing on the combined need for an infrastructure revolution and job creation, the state could implement a New Deal-like program to get Californians back to work to provide the labor necessary for this statewide transportation change. 

Let’s come back to microgrids. The state already has financial incentives for homeowners looking to go off the grid with solar power. Expanding these programs would provide more reliable local power for individuals and communities and pay off in the long run for homeowners as they power their cars with the free energy of the sun. 

So what about charging stations? Right now, 80 percent of EV charging happens in private homes. The lack of public charging stations is one of the main factors holding non-homeowners back from investing in an electric vehicle. California approved a $437 million program to add 38,000 new electric-car charging stations in the next five years, but an estimated 2 million would be needed to meet the needs of an all-electric state. Fortunately, charging stations with solar panels also make great microgrids!

The last factor we’re covering is environmental externalities. Electric vehicles are praised as the green transportation of the future, but the extraction of metals needed to create EV batteries does take a toll on the planet. To solve this, we need investment in new battery technologies, like aluminum-ion, silicon, and sodium-ion, to make batteries cleaner and longer range batteries so they don’t need to be replaced as frequently. 

Climate pledges are a great first step to a greener future, but they must be accompanied by tangible action if we are to ever reach these goals. Fortunately, with rapidly evolving solar and battery technology, we have the opportunity to actually achieve all-electric vehicle sales in California by 2035.

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