Davis plans for next steps with electric vehicles

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Raising awareness of electric vehicle charging needs in Davis are, from left, Gil Tal, a researcher at the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies; Chris Granger, executive director of Cool Davis; Mitch Sears, city of Davis sustainability manager; Shelby Kelley, transportation field coordinator for Cool Davis; and Mark Braly, board president of the Valley Action Climate Center. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

You can help
Electric vehicle owners are invited to participate in the EV planning grant by completing a survey at visit tinyurl.com/evplan. For questions, emailinfo@cooldavis.org.

By Shelby Kelley

Today there are approximately 400 electric vehicles in Davis, but the city has an ambitious goal of 2,500 in the community by 2020.

At the state level, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in 2013 calling for 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles on California’s roads by 2025, and this year in his State of the State address he called for a 50 percent reduction in fossil fuel usage.

The challenge for a low-emissions future is on, and Davis is beginning by taking a serious look at the supply of charging stations that are a necessity for EV drivers.

Davis Mayor Dan Wolk believes this advance planning is crucial.

“Davis is a national leader in low-carbon transportation, and plug-in vehicles are a part of our future,” he said. “The grant-funded Electric Vehicle Charging Plan we’re developing with UC Davis, the Valley Climate Action Center and Cool Davis will help us determine how many chargers are needed in Davis and where to place them for maximum use.

“This plan positions Davis for success as these vehicles become mainstream.”

Davis has received a grant from the California Energy Commission to create its own infrastructure plan for electric vehicles. The city of Davis, Cool Davis, Valley Climate Action Center and the UC Davis Institute for Transportation Studies are working together to plan the next 10 years of EV charging in the community.

The goal of this project is to create an Alternative Fuels Readiness Plan of the most effective way to increase the charging infrastructure in the Davis area for the expected increase in plug-in electric vehicles.

The three objectives include: maximizing plug-in electric vehicle miles traveled by increasing the availability of public chargers, projecting future numbers of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in Davis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from the transportation sector.

“Probably, electric and plug-in vehicles are the only available technologies which can reduce the carbon footprint of our transportation sector,” said Mark Braly, president of Valley Climate Action Center. “This is key to achieving our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.”

“The Valley Climate Action Center is excited about being a part of this project. We will do all we can to engage the driver, dealer, and property-owner community in our work.”

The plan will help Davis reach the goals set in its Climate Action and Adaptation Plan: reducing vehicle miles traveled, vehicle emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. Moreover, the plan will help Davis improve air quality, officials said.

Currently, this region fails to meet federal health standards for smog, 70 percent of which is created by automobiles. Finally, this grant sets Davis up as a model for other communities across the nation as they will look to existing plans before making their own.

Chris Granger, executive director of Cool Davis, provided a little more insight into why planning for plug-in vehicles is so important for meeting the city’s goals.

“Cool Davis is working with households throughout the community to reduce their GHG emissions,” she said. “Our transportation GHG is more than 40 percent of our household emissions. We want to support households in their selection of a portfolio of transportation options.

“Households need a cityscape that supports the changes they are making. Owning an EV can make a huge difference in the GHG of a household, and as electric vehicles become more ubiquitous and affordable, all types of households will need electric charging that works for them,” she continued.

“This planning effort will help to identify the charging needs for people who live in apartments, own their own homes, are visiting or commuting to Davis or are commuting from Davis to other destinations.”

Cool Davis is committed to a goal of 2,500 or more electric vehicles in Davis by 2020, Granger added.

“Our vision is that EVs and other low- and no-emission vehicles (bikes and fuel cell vehicles) will become the normative vehicles driven inside our community in the next decade,” she said.

Issues around charging are one major set of factors that prevent individuals from buying electric vehicles. Davis has some charging stations, but users already are beginning to experience their limitations. Some EV owners have experienced queuing as well as some other problems.

Matt Chan, a local EV owner, discussed some of the current issues with charging and shared what he would like to see implemented in the future.

“For those without home or workplace charging, additional reliable charging sites in Davis will go a long way in encouraging EV adoption,” Chan said. “Currently, each of the four downtown charging stations are each occupied more than 50 percent of the time. For those routinely needing a charge, this level of availability is too low to rely on.

“This limited availability also encourages EV drivers to ‘opportunity charge’ when they don’t really need it, further reducing availability for those that do need the charge,” he added.

All public charging sites in Davis should have at least four side-by-side L2 volt charging stations each, Chan recommended.

“It’s more important to have more stations concentrated at fewer sites rather than fewer stations scattered at more sites,” he said. “EV drivers have to feel assured that when they arrive at a charging site, they have a high likelihood of being able to actually charge.”

The planning team wants to address as many barriers to charging and owning as they can as they develop the charging plan for Davis. The team would like to reduce range and charger anxiety that might prevent people from taking the plunge and buying that EV they’ve been considering.

Plug-in owners and interested public are invited to participate in the EV planning grant. By getting input from current and potential owners, the grant team hopes to create a plan that will improve charging and support future needs throughout the community for both current and future owners.

EV owners’ charging experience and needs n the city of Davis can provide valuable information to this process. Consider joining focus groups, interactive planning events, and Davis EV owner events. Or offer your input via survey.

To participate in the planning — focus groups, interactive planning events and EV owner events — fill out a brief survey attinyurl.com/evplan. For questions, email info@cooldavis.org.

— Shelby Kelley is the transportation field coordinator for Cool Davis and a CivicSpark AmeriCorps member.