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California budget gaps leave heavy-duty EV projects in limbo

Motiv Power Systems

Opinion by Urvi Nagrani, Director of Marketing & Business Development, Motiv Power Systems

The state of California has approved a number of measures to advance sustainable transportation. Governor Jerry Brown has both a Zero-Emission Vehicle Action Plan and a Sustainable Freight Plan, and the senate passed a landmark climate bill last year. California’s leadership on environmental causes was highlighted last year in Governor Brown’s talks with Pope Francis on climate leadership.

However, when it comes to implementation, the industry sees an entirely different picture.

In 2015, there was a $260-million budget shortfall between what the California Air Resources Board (CARB) investment plan said was going to be allocated to Low Carbon Transportation and what was actually allocated by the legislature. This year, all of the 2016-2017 funding for the same program was pulled out of the budget altogether, leaving shovel-ready project applications at CARB in limbo. This budget gap has frozen heavy-duty pilot projects, which include millions of dollars in partner matching funds, effectively stopping both public and private investment statewide until awards are made. This hurts industry growth, job stability, and the trajectory towards clean air.

Pilot projects with CARB represent a huge opportunity, if they are properly funded. When the Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Solicitation was announced with a budget of $23 million, the industry responded with requests for $290 million in projects. This over-subscription to the program reflects a high level of optimism and commitment from the industry. Hopes for effective public-private partnerships brought together air districts, commercial and municipal fleet operators, technology providers, manufacturers, and community groups in multi-stakeholder projects.

These projects rely on huge amounts of matching funding, labor and in-kind equipment, and every day of delay hurts an industry that’s not on the cutting edge, but the bleeding edge of transforming our economy to a carbon-neutral and sustainable future.

During such delays, Californians continue to breathe harmful emissions. Diesel particulate matter from heavy-duty vehicles is estimated to be responsible for 70% of total known cancer risks related to air toxins in California. The production, refining, and use of petroleum is responsible for almost half of California’s greenhouse gas emissions and 80% of smog-forming pollution.

Furthermore, the economic benefits of investing in zero-emission vehicles remain unrealized. According to an economic assessment of plug-in electric vehicle deployments, a dollar saved at the gas pump and spent on household goods and services creates 16 times more jobs than a dollar spent on refined petroleum products. Money saved by driving electrified vehicles is spent largely in the state economy, creating diverse, bedrock local jobs – and that money continues to circulate in the local economy.

While California’s political leadership claims to care about the environment, public health, and economic growth, the investment signals are not aligned with the stated goals. Until our governor and legislators recognize the urgency of sustainable funding for proposed programs, these plans are not worth the paper they’re printed on, and will remain unrealized fantasies. If you are a California resident who values clean air and a sustainable future, call your state representatives today and remind them that funding delays are unacceptable, and that you support fully funding our state’s low carbon transportation plans.


MORE: Silicon Valley’s Motiv helps electrify heavy-duty trucks, shuttles and buses

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