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California needs millions of EV chargers to meet zero-emissions target

Jordan Smith
By Jordan Smith July 24th, 2021
3 min read
For business

California will require 1.2 million public and shared electric vehicle (EV) chargers by 2030 for the state to meet its zero-emissions vehicle target. Gov. Gavin Newsome set a goal of all new passenger vehicle sales in the state being zero-emissions vehicles by 2035. To get there, authorities project 7.5 million EVs must be on the state’s roads by 2030.

Newsome and his supporters say the shift towards zero-emissions vehicles is essential to cut carbon emissions. Transport currently accounts for about two-fifths of California’s greenhouse gas output.

The new figures on EV infrastructure were presented in an analysis by the California Energy Commission. The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Assessment estimates that the state will need 157,000 charging facilities to support medium-duty and heavy-duty electric trucks and buses. The CEC believes 180,000 electric trucks and buses will be operating in California by the end of the decade.

In 2020, the CEC warned that the growth in demand for EVs was greater than the increase in investment in EV infrastructure. The latest analysis reiterated this concern. 

“We need to bridge the gap in electric vehicle charging or we won’t meet our goals for zeroing out harmful pollution from transportation,” says CEC commissioner Patty Monahan. “Building over a million chargers by 2030 is ambitious, but it’s also an opportunity to create good jobs and showcase California’s can-do spirit.”

Public investments support infrastructure buildout

California has installed 73,000 public and shared chargers so far. The state plans to install a further 130,000 chargers by 2025. A significant acceleration in construction is needed to reach 1 million charging stations by 2030.

The state is investing public funds to incentivize EV charger installation. Last year, the CEC pledged to invest around $380 million over the next three years in EV chargers and other infrastructure for zero-emissions vehicles. Cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells are also part of California’s zero-emission vehicle fleet.

Before last year’s announcement, the CEC had already spent $375 million to support the construction of about 11,000 charging stations. The CEC must also ensure the fair distribution of charging facilities in low-income communities.

“California isn’t backing down from this challenge because the health of our communities and planet is at stake,” adds Monahan. “I’m proud that Governor Newsome is prioritizing zero-emission transportation through his proposed budget investments so we can do more now to meet consumer and market needs through strategic public investments that leverage private dollars.”

Power grid will face additional demand

If California meets its goal of 7.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030, the power grid will have to cope with additional demand. The CEC’s latest analysis projects that on a typical day, energy demand could rise by 5,000 megawatts at midnight and 4.500 megawatts at 10 a.m.

Critics say that Newsome’s zero-emissions goal places too much strain on the grid. California is already struggling to deal with summer peak power demand.

But, advocates argue that the extra demand is manageable with vehicle grid integration (VGI) technology. VGI technology allows EV owners to program their vehicles to charge at certain times of the day. This function will allow owners to charge their EVs when power demand is at its lowest.

How will this affect me?

Additional charging stations across California will make it easier to drive an electric vehicle in the Golden State. Even if you live in an area that currently lacks charging coverage, the state’s commitments suggest that this will soon be changing.

Yet, doubts remain about whether the ambitious time frame to get more zero-emissions vehicles on the road will be met. If you’re unsure about buying an EV, this uncertainty could discourage customers like you from opting for a zero-emissions car.

Even if you don’t plan on owning an EV anytime soon, the state’s push to expand zero-emissions vehicles will still impact you. You may notice changes to the cost of your power as shifts in energy demand change how the grid operates.


Jordan Smith is a freelance journalist and translator covering issues related to energy, the environment, and politics. His work has appeared on the independent news site Opposing Views and at the Canadian Labour Institute.

[Malcolm P Chapman]/Getty Images