It’s time to fill up California with 1 million electric vehicle charging stations

I like tackling big problems.The bigger the better. I like them because big problems need big solutions. And I should know, I was one of the main architects behind California banning single-use plastic bags, building 1 million solar roofs and committing to 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

The state now has another chance to solve two big problems — air pollution and climate change. In the next few days, Gov. Gavin Newsom has the opportunity to announce a plan to build 1 million electric vehicle charging stations across California. 

Recently, the governor appointed Ann O’Leary, who is his chief of staff, and former presidential candidate Tom Steyer to chair the California Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery. This group will make recommendations to Gov. Newsom on jump-starting our economy and protecting the environment. 

Charging stations should be at the top of the list.

Simply put, this is a goal that will protect our lungs. During the early days of COVID-19 pandemic, we all experienced the clean air around the state. Sadly, even before we’ve solved the novel coronavirus,  the air in many parts of the state is polluted again. Transportation is the cause. We have too many trucks, buses and cars driving around burning fossil fuels.  In fact, 55 percent of the United States’ nitrogen oxide  total emissions inventory, which manifests itself in lung-choking smog, comes from transportation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Another reason to adopt this proposal is to stave off the worst impacts of climate change.  Transportation makes up 40 percent of our state’s greenhouse gas pollution, according to the most recent data from the California Air Resources Board. These climate-damaging emissions can be stopped by electrifying our transportation system. But that can only occur if we establish more charging stations. 

To make this a reality, experts agree that we need one charging station for every five to seven EVs on the road. The state has already set a goal of 5 million EVs by 2030, so basic math indicates that we need 1 million charging stations by 2030. 

Currently, a little more than 700,000 EV have been purchased in California, but there are only 24,439 charging stations across the state. That leaves us woefully short on locations to juice up these vehicles. 

Of course, it’s not just the number of charging stations that is holding us back. There are a number of other charging station issues that must be fixed.

My group, Environment California Research and Policy Center, looked at these problems and made a set of recommendations to fix them.

In addition to setting a goal of one million charging stations, we must:

  1.  Expand public charging capacity
  2.  Make EV chargers more accessible by increasing interoperability
  3.  Increase the visibility and price transparency of public charging stations
  4.  Ensure EV spaces are open for EVs
  5.  Expand access to other forms of electric mobility

Big goals may seem daunting, but we shouldn’t forget that California has a history of setting and then reaching them. For example, when Environment California led the way to introduce a commitment to 1 million solar roofs with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, many people laughed. But in November 2019 we celebrated our 1 millionth installation. When we first introduced our bill in 2001 for comprehensive clean energy in California, people said, “No way.” We said, “Way.” Now we are on pace to hit 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

Gov. Newsom please add to this legacy of thinking big and delivering. We must adopt a goal of 1 million charging stations and make the necessary changes to ensure it’s easy to charge our cars. Your grandkids will thank you for it.


Dan Jacobson

Senior Advisor, Environment California

Dan provides campaign strategy and policy guidance for Environment California's program and organizational plans. Prior to his current role, he worked as the state director of Environment California and the organizing director of Florida PIRG, among other roles. The Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT) named Dan a Clean Power Champion in 2019, and Capitol Weekly named him one of the “Top 100 Lobbyists” in California in 2008. Dan's areas of expertise include renewable energy, electric vehicles and ocean pollution, and he has successfully advocated for the passage of dozens of bills into law, including measures to ban toxic chemicals, bring 1 million solar roofs to California, and ban single-use plastic grocery bags. He ran the campaign for SB 100, California’s law setting a goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2045.