Switching to electric vehicles will help San Diego’s Climate Action Plan goals

San Diego is leading the charge in the transition to electric vehicles, which is critically important to help the City achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions in its recently updated Climate Action Plan. The goal of the CAP is to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2035.

Renewable energy means getting all energy from renewable resources – sunlight, wind, water, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Net zero emissions entail bringing global greenhouse gas emissions into balance with emissions reductions. Carbon dioxide emissions are still generated, but an equal amount of carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, resulting in a zero increase.

There are many fears – and hurdles – to be overcome in transitioning away from vehicles powered by fossil fuels to greener, cleaner electric vehicles.

Is it cost effective? Is the technology advanced enough yet for it to be broadly applied? Does the infrastructure exist to support such a wholesale conversion?

These questions need to all be answered before the public will be convinced that switching from polluting internal-combustion engines to battery-operated vehicles is not only doable but practical.

Electric vehicles right now check all the boxes in answering all of those questions affirmatively, said Ellen Kennedy, emission vehicles program manager for the City’s Sustainability and Mobility Department, and Heather Werner, deputy director of the City’s Sustainability and Mobility Department.

Ellen Kennedy, City of San Diego zero-emission vehicles program manager for the Sustainability and Mobility Department, is seen here with her 2022 Kia EV-6. COURTESY PHOTO

“You can depend on electric vehicles and the network (infrastructure) is there already with EV chargers placed around travel corridors and places like shopping centers, libraries, and recreation centers,” said Kennedy, who drives a 2022 Kia EV-6. “You can also use Google Maps to query where electric vehicle charging stations are.”

“As EV charging continues to expand, their placement around travel corridors is actually an economic driver for those areas,” noted Werner.

But there are simpler charging methods, Kennedy noted. “Honestly, the easiest way to charge is at your home,” she said, pointing out that’s a clear advantage in that “most people don’t have gas pumps at their house. You can also plug your car in while you work or sleep, or just walk away from it while you engage in other life activities.”

Kennedy said electric vehicles charge about five miles an hour, about 40 miles overnight. “Most people don’t travel more than 40 miles,” she pointed out, adding electric vehicle charging on level 1, which uses a normal 120-volt outlet, will charge at roughly 5 miles per hour. Level 2 charging, which uses a 240-volt outlet, can yield approximately 18-30 miles per hour.

Electric vehicles, depending on their battery size, can go travel farther than you think on a full charge, noted Werner. “Their maximum range is between 250 and 300 miles,” she said pointing out batteries, like gas tanks, “only hold so much.” She put that in perspective stating, “That’s a trip from San Diego to Los Angeles in both directions.”

“I have made it from Phoenix to San Diego stopping one time to charge,” said Kennedy.

Regarding the cost of electric charging versus buying gas, Kennedy said there is savings there too. “It tends to be much less expensive, by least helped,” she said. She added the price of electricity depends on the rate being charged by the utility supplying that electricity, not unlike gas stations charging different prices in different areas.

Werner talked about one of the goals in the City’s newly updated CAP. “By 2035, we want to see 25% of all light-duty vehicle miles traveled in the city to be on electric power. That’s the target,” she said. “We also want 50% of all trips in the city to be not in a car, but by some other form of travel, whether it be walking, mass transit, etc.”

Added Werner, “People getting out of their cars will not only improve traffic but make for more walkable neighborhoods and an overall improvement in quality of life.”

Comparing prices between electric versus internal combustion vehicles,

Kennedy noted current data suggests the average new car today costs about $40,000. “For electric vehicles, the cost is higher, simply because most electric vehicles are made to be luxury models,” she said. “So it’s not comparing apples with apples. There are about a dozen EV models whose manufacturers suggested retail price falls just above, or under, $40,000.”

There are also financial incentives being offered to encourage people to make the switch from internal combustion to electric vehicles.

“There are a number of federal and state incentives to help lower the price tags of many electric vehicles on the market, like after-the-fact tax rebates,” said Kennedy. “Consumers can choose to apply that at the time they purchase their car. That can really help with getting more people to purchase more cars if they don’t have to wait for a rebate come tax time.”

Rebates are changing per the recently passed inflation reduction act. Consumers should be able to apply the rebate at the time of purchase of electric vehicles starting in 2024.

In addition to not requiring fuel, electric cars also avoid oil changes, are generally easier on the brakes, and have fewer moving parts to break. But there are other advantages too to owning them.

“Electrical vehicles have incredible technology and they are fun to drive and they are great in terms of emission reductions,” Kennedy pointed out. “They are less expensive to fuel and manage. So there are some real positives to making the transition.”

ELECTRIC VEHICLES

EV – electric vehicle: Uses one or more electric motors for propulsion. It can be powered by a collector system, with electricity from extravehicular sources, or powered autonomously by a battery.

BEV – battery electric vehicle: Is a car that runs only on electricity. You don’t need to fill it up with gas, get the oil changed, or do other engine maintenance, and you can charge the battery from a standard home power outlet.

HEV – hybrid electric vehicle: This is a type of hybrid vehicle that combines a conventional internal combustion engine system with an electric propulsion system. The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve either better fuel economy than a conventional vehicle or better performance.

PHEV – plug-in hybrid electric vehicle: Also called “plug-ins,” have both an electric motor and an engine that runs on gas. You can charge it with electricity, fill it with gas, or both.

Vehicle cost comparison and electricity pricing calculator: driveclean.ca.gov/tools-and-calculators.