SACRAMENTO –The California Senate today passed the Charge Ahead California Initiative (SB 1275) by a bipartisan vote of 27-9. The bill advances the goal of putting one million electric cars, trucks, and buses on the road over the next decade by improving consumer incentives and rebates. By making it easier for low- and moderate-income motorists to access clean transportation, the legislation not only addresses air quality concerns, but also takes important steps toward ensuring that all Californians can participate in the state’s transition to clean vehicles.
Senator Kevin de León, the bill’s author, developed the legislation with the Charge Ahead California steering committee, a coalition of community-based organizations and conservation groups working together to expand clean transportation, improve economies, and achieve air quality and climate goals.
“To clean up our dirty air, we need to make electric cars more accessible for our middle- and low-income families, not just the wealthy,” said Senator Kevin de León.
“Today’s vote moves us closer to getting more electric vehicles on California’s roadways, clearing our smoggy skies and helping to avert dangerous global warming,” said Max Baumhefner, a clean vehicles and fuels expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Charge Ahead California Initiative will electrify our state’s cars, trucks, and buses, improving access to a cleaner fuel that’s the cost equivalent of dollar-a-gallon gasoline, which is especially important for households that spend a disproportionate share of their income at the gas pump,” Baumhefner said.
Supporters praise the bill’s focus on strengthening current programs to be more inclusive of disadvantaged residents, who often live in communities with the poorest air quality.
“Charge Ahead creates jobs for Californians, makes plug-in vehicles more affordable, reduces our dependency on fossil fuel and lowers tailpipe emissions,” said Bahram Fazeli, Policy Director with Communities for a Better Environment. “Low-income communities of color near transportation corridors are disproportionately impacted by pollution from vehicles, and SB 1275 is a very important initiative in addressing this environmental justice issue and improving public health.”
Key provisions of the legislation include:
• An extended and improved Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP). The CVRP has been instrumental in bringing a third of the nation’s plug-in cars to California. The CVRP currently provides buyers with a $2,500 rebate for zero-emission purchases, but the program has been historically plagued by insufficient funding. SB 1275 would help secure the funding needed to ensure California is the first state in the nation with one million electric vehicles, but would step down rebate levels over time as technology costs go down.
• Makes it easier for fleet managers replace polluting trucks, buses, and heavy-duty tractor-trailers with clean electric ones. Funds Air Quality Improvement Plan grants to make the transition more affordable.
• Increases access to clean transportation in disadvantaged communities. Establishes car sharing programs, deploys charging stations in apartment complexes, provides access to financing options that would mean lower combined monthly car payments and fuel costs, and offers incentives for the replacement of gas-guzzling “clunkers” with new or used electric cars or vouchers for transit and car sharing.
Bill Magavern, Policy Director for the Coalition for Clean Air, supports the bill’s comprehensive approach to reducing road pollution. “Getting more electric cars into garages and driveways is clearly important, but incentives to help fleet managers replace heavy-polluting trucks and buses with zero-emission vehicles is just as critical to cutting air pollution in cities.”
Electric vehicles have an immediate benefit not just in terms of air quality, but also for jobs and California’s economy. Putting one million electric vehicles on the road could create up to 100,000 additional California jobs by 2030. “Californians shell out $70 billion on gas and diesel each year, $40 billion of which leaves the state in payments to the corporations and foreign countries that produce the oil,” said Vien Truong, Director of Environmental Equity with the Greenlining Institute. “Transitioning to zero-emission transportation means keeping more transportation dollars—and jobs—right here in California.”
Michelle Kinman, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California, said that Charge Ahead California represents an opportunity to reverse California’s severe air pollution problems. “Four in ten Californians live near a highway or other busy road, more than any other state. If our roads were instead filled with zero-emission vehicles, it would dramatically improve the lives of millions of Californians who are already suffering from asthma and other pollution impacts.”
With its passage in the Senate, SB 1275 now heads to the State Assembly for further review. Advocates expect it will continue to enjoy widespread support.
SB 1275, the Charge Ahead California Initiative, is sponsored by the Coalition for Clean Air, Communities for a Better Environment, Environment California, The Greenlining Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The campaign is also endorsed by many others, including: American Lung Association in California, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Black Business Association, Breathe CA, CALPIRG, CALSTART, Catholic Charities – Stockton Diocese, FAME Corporations, Global Green USA, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles, Sierra Club California, TransForm, Union of Concerned Scientists, Valley LEAP and West Angeles Community Development Corporation [partial list].