California has to step up to the plate to get Energy Resilient Vehicles on the road and lead the world to more resilient energy infrastructures. Coping with wildfire and PSPS scenarios requires all hands-on deck.

This is the 6th of a series of blogs that describe the concept of the Energy Resilient Vehicle (ERV). In previous blogs I have explained how the car manufacturers and the regulatory bodies must step up to the table and help California deal with the wildfire and natural disaster threats through producing so-called ERVs:

  1. Blog #1: Introduction to the Energy Resilience Vehicle
  2. Blog #2: The story of GHG emission and California
  3. Blog #3: Why the car manufacturers should step up to help CA
  4. Blog #4: California 2030 – A scenario
  5. Blog#5: What regulatory bodies can do to foster Energy Resilient Vehicles

This article describes what the State of California can do to incentivize the car manufacturers to introduce Energy Resilient Vehicles into the California market.

California has to step up to the plate to get Energy Resilient Vehicles on the road and lead the world to more resilient energy infrastructures. Coping with wildfire and PSPS scenarios requires all hands-on deck. 

In previous articles we have argued that the EV manufacturers should do their part on start producing bi-directional EVs. We have also argued that the regulatory bodies should step up and make it easier to form microgrids with ERVs to mitigate power shutoffs, events to be expected to increase as we move forward. 

Now it is time to look at the economic incentives that California should be offering to the EV manufacturer to incentivize them to make ERVs available in California.

A short history


1). The Story of smog and the Catalytic Converter in California 

The first episodes of ‘smog’ occurred in Los Angeles in the summer of 1943. It got worse the following decades to the point where it was outright dangerous to your health to be outside when the bad smog events occurred. California then in 1966 established the first tailpipe emissions standards in the nation. In 1967 the California Air Resource Board (CARB) was established, to attain and maintain healthy air quality; and to provide innovative approaches for complying with air pollution rules and regulations.

City Center Los Angeles in 1948           Los Angeles – Skyline of Downtown 1975           Los Angeles Airport in 1980

The catalytic converter became standard equipment on most new vehicles starting in 1975 and was mandatory by 1981, when it was fitted to vehicles for sale in the United States, enabling them to meet newly introduced emission regulations.

The Catalytic Converter mandated in 1981

The car manufacturers originally objected to the:

  1. cost ($thousand+)
  2. weight
  3. volume
  4. performance (reduced miles per gallon)

added to the car but eventually rose to the challenge and incorporated the catalytic converters.

2). The Story of CO2 emission and the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) in California

The Zero Emission Vehicle program was first adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 1990. The purpose of the ZEV program was to meet California’s health-based air quality standards and greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and move the cars away from petroleum-based fuel. This would reduce smog-causing pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions of passenger vehicles in California. 

The ZEV regulation is designed to achieve the state’s long-term emission reduction goals by requiring auto manufacturers to offer for sale specific numbers of the very cleanest cars available. These vehicle technologies include full battery-electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles. The ZEV regulation is part of the broader Advanced Clean Cars package of regulations, a set of tailpipe regulations put in place to limit smog-forming and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and combat climate change.

The following is a quote from the CARB homepage:  

How the ZEV Regulation Works 

Auto manufacturers are required to produce a number of ZEVs and plug-in hybrids each year, based on the total number of cars sold in California by the manufacturer. Manufacturers with higher overall sales of all vehicles are required to make more ZEVs. Requirements are in terms of percent credits, ranging from 4.5 percent in 2018 to 22 percent by 2025. Auto manufacturers are to produce vehicles and each vehicle receives credits based on its electric driving range. The more range a vehicle has, the more credit it receives. Credits not needed for compliance in any given year can be banked for future use, traded, or sold to other manufacturers. CARB releases annual credit bank balances each year, as well as the total number of vehicles produced for that model year, as well as the total number of ZEVs and plug-in hybrids.”

Carmakers that didn’t comply could be fined $5,000 per credit not produced, though CARB has yet to levy a penalty.

The ZEV program is largely credited for incentivizing the car manufactures to introduce Zero Emission Vehicles (battery, fuel cell, hybrid plug-in) in California.

The car manufacturers have introduced ZEV in California – there are currently around 700,000 ZEVs – even in the light of the following issues (sounds familiar?):

  1. cost ($ ten thousands+)
  2. weight (EVs are heavier than similar ICEs)
  3. volume (batteries taking up a lot of space. but also reducing space because no ICE drive train)
  4. performance (reduced range per fuel stop)

3). Bi-directional EV/EVSE

The Japanese car manufacturers Nissan Mitsubishi have already shown that it is possible to produce an EV that is capable of bi-directional power flow in the lower cost EV segment. For example, the Nissan 2020 Leaf sells for $31,600 but with Federal Tax Credit it comes down to $24,100!.

The charging station must of course also be bi-directional and until recently they have been selling at quite high prices making bi-directional solutions out of reach for most people. However, this is about to change with a number of startups announcing lower cost bi-directional chargers for the US market. The Spanish startup Wall Box has announced a 7.4kW bi-directional charger at the price of ~$4,000.

4). EVs are born bi-directional (power flow)

EVs are born with bi-directional power flow internally. Press the accelerator and power is flowing from the battery to the electric motor. Remove the foot from the accelerator and the power is flowing from the electric motor back into the battery (regenerative braking).

All that is required to make this bi-directional power flow available outside the EV. Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors have shown is feasible at low cost.

5). CARB like regime to get EV manufacturers to add bi-directionality to their EVs.

Car manufacturers are already spending billions of dollars to make their cars self-driving and add more entertainment and vanity features to their cars. They should be able to spend a small amount of this money making their EVs energy resilient.

This is where a CARB like mechanism could work. Why not change the charter of CARB slightly as shown in the figure below. Add a sentence after “climate change” to say, “including making communities more energy resilient”.

And in the ZEV program description below add the definition of what is an Energy Resilient Vehicle as shown in the light blue box. Carmakers that don’t comply to the ERV mandate could be fined $5,000 per credit not produced in line what is the case for the ZEV program.

The ZEV program is largely credited for incentivizing the car manufactures to introduce Zero Emission Vehicles (battery, fuel cell, hybrid plug-in) in California and the ERV program could likewise help Californian citizens cope with PSPS events, wildfires and natural disasters.

6). Summary

California should take the bold step to incentivize the car manufacturers to introduce ERVs into the California market. This would go a long way to help CA citizens cope with effects of wildfires, PSPS and other natural disasters.

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