The U.S. state that likes to style itself the world’s fifth-largest economy will ban all sales of new gasoline-powered cars after 2035 under an executive order signed last week by California Governor Gavin Newsom.
The order also instructs the powerful California Air Resources Board (CARB) to ensure “that medium- and heavy-duty vehicles are 100% zero-emission by 2045 ‘everywhere feasible’,” Utility Dive reports.
The order means the Golden State “just started the clock on a future that a few years ago would’ve been unthinkable: dealerships full of nothing but zero-emissions cars,” Bloomberg writes. “California became the first state in America to impose such a prohibition and delivered the biggest jolt yet to automakers already under pressure to give up fossil fuels and deliver a new generation of electric vehicles.”
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While automakers are already investing billions in electric vehicle development, the news agency says fewer than 8% of the new cars registered in California in the first six months of 2020 were electric, making the 2035 deadline a “huge leap” for the industry.
“If it actually happens, it does create a reason and impetus to make change happen faster,” said IHS Markit analyst Stephanie Brinley. If “you have the opportunity for volume there, and you’re going to be able to sell the car, then you can put more money into investing and increasing your capacity faster.”
Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for Boston-based GasBuddy, called the announcement “a kiss of death for gasoline and petroleum, as California tends to be a trendsetter.” Amisha Rai, managing director at the Advanced Energy Economy industry association, applauded the executive order. “These actions will further cement California’s global leadership on climate while expanding the market for advanced transportation technologies and services in the state, promoting manufacturing, supply chain development, and good paying jobs,” she said.
Citing Stoel Rives partner Morten Lund, Utility Dive says there’s a long way to go before the executive order leads to an official zero-emission vehicle mandate. But if it does, “this will change the nature of [electricity] load,” Lund told the industry newsletter. “And it’s important that the grid planners know this, so it’s good they have as much warning as possible.”
Citing Energy Innovation policy analyst Amanda Myers, Utility Dive estimates that “staying on track to reach 100% zero-emission passenger vehicle sales in 2035 would lead to a 9% increase in electricity demand by 2030.” But utilities are already planning for a future where electricity replaces fossil fuels, and electric vehicles are also a flexible load, which opens up new options for grid planners.
“We already have EVs serving as a demand response resource for [the California Independent System Operator, CAISO] as an aggregated resource, but we’re just scratching the surface there of the potential,” said Advanced Energy Economy managing director Matt Stanberry. “There are many other grid services that EVs can provide—and actually, you need to look no further than the [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] order that came out just within the last few days on [distributed energy resources’] access to the wholesale markets.”
One emerging option for EV owners would be to charge their vehicles at times of day when the state’s solar resources are at their highest and other grid demand is low, a strategy that would cut their charging costs while allowing the state to take advantage of what amounts to “costless power”, Utility Dive says.
“We’re going to have to do more work on rate design faster,” Stanberry said. “We’re going to need to do more work on managed charging programs,” and on vehicle-to-grid integration.
But while a larger number of EVs on California’s roads will increase electricity demand, “frankly, not in an earth-shaking way,” Lund said, “just because we’re already on our way to a 100% grid renewable requirement anyway.”
The California Solar and Storage Association is drawing a different conclusion, warning that the mandate will drive up electricity demand from EVs by 25% in a state “that has been struggling to keep the lights on,” Bloomberg Green writes.
“Such an increase in demand on the state’s already stressed electric grid adds urgency and importance to making the state’s energy supplies safer, more affordable, and more reliable,” Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro said in a release.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, the California Solar and Storage Association thinks it has the solution: solar and battery installations to shore up any power shortfalls that emerge from the onslaught of EVs, particularly rooftop solar arrays paired with home batteries,” Bloomberg writes.