California’s steady march toward vehicle electrification took a leap forward last week when the California Public Utilities Commission approved a San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) plan to support charging infrastructure for at least 3,000 electric buses, trucks, and other medium and heavy-duty vehicles.
“If you build it, they will come,” said Jessica Packard, SDG&E’s communication’s manager. “Hopefully, the program will encourage people to buy electric vehicles.”
The $107 million initiative seeks to build at least 300 charging stations at sites primarily in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color that often live near freeways, ports, rail yards, and other facilities that generate significant levels of engine exhaust.
The service areas of SDG&E, San Diego and southern Orange County, is home to more than 103,000 commercial vehicles, including trucks that operate around the congested ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border and the Port of San Diego.
“The long term goal is to impact the air quality from places we choose to locate the infrastructure,” Packard said.
The new installations will support customers investing in Class 2 through Class 8 vehicles such as delivery trucks, transit buses, garbage trucks, port trucks, and school buses. Infrastructure for off-road vehicles such as forklifts and transportation refrigeration unit, is also eligible for funding. Customers must commit to purchasing a minimum of two electric vehicles, according to Packard.
Also included in the program is a school bus pilot that will feed energy from the buses’ batteries back to the electric grid. Large batteries on the buses will soak up electrons from the grid when energy is plentiful – such as during the day when there is abundant solar power – and discharge the energy when there is high demand on the power grid.
California is pursuing widespread transportation electrification as part of a clean energy law adopted in 2015 and broader greenhouse gas reduction goals. Trucks and cars are the biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in California, and pollution from that sector continues to rise, according to the state’s latest greenhouse gas inventory released last week.
The San Diego program builds upon medium- and heavy-duty vehicle electrification programs the commission approved in May 2018 for California’s other large investor-owned utilities, $236 million for Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and $356 million for Southern California Edison (SCE).
Factoring in the San Diego allocation, the collective $700 million investment is the largest by electric utilities in the U.S. to help replace heavy duty vehicles with zero-emission technology, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The public infrastructure comes as private industry is stepping up efforts to electrify medium- and-heavy-duty trucks in Southern California. Last April, Penske Truck Leasing added 14 fast charging stations at four of its Southern California facilities in San Diego, Chino, Anaheim, and La Mirada.
Through its program Volvo LIGHTS, the Swedish automaker is developing battery-electric versions of its regional haul trucks for use in drayage from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to inland warehouses. The project is eligible for infrastructure funding through Southern California Edison’s electrification program.