California’s Big Plans For the Future of Electric Cars

BMW i3 Miles Willis/Getty Images
Miles Willis/Getty Images

We know that not all states are equal when it comes to electric and plug-in technology. And electric car enthusiasts on the East Coast know it all too well — many have never seen an electric charging station in our local community, or even within a 50-mile radius. We’ve rarely seen electric cars on the road — and we understand the reluctance of local mechanics to even work on these cars at all.

But that’s not the way it is in the Golden State; officials, businesses, and third-party groups are arguing to advance the electric auto industry across the second-largest state in the country.

The Drive the Dream event on October 15 gathered business leaders, industry players, state officials, and local utility providers under the same roof to discuss how to advance electric driving for the 21st century. Those in attendance heard speeches, looked at electric car demos, and did some green networking. The event was organized by partners including the California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative (PEVC), a public/private organization comprised of 47 members working together to move the PEV market forward in California.

Event participants also viewed some of the new technologies for electric car drivers — including the Chevrolet Bolt concept car. Nine auto manufacturers showcased 12 cars. The Tesla model S was there, along with the Nissan Leaf and other electric cars.

Another new design on display was the Toyota Mirai, a brand-new vehicle that Toyota promotes with an ambitious “Back to the Future” marketing campaign featuring guest appearances by none other than Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox. The Toyota Mirai’s biofuel design means it can drive on hydrogen for a practically zero-emissions result.

"EV Japan" Electric Vehicle Expo 2011 Kicks-Off
Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

The Drive the Dream 2015 event also included some exciting announcements about future plans by various parties within the state of California. The U.S. Navy announced intentions to lease more than 450 electric vehicles. San Diego Gas & Electric said it will add electric vehicles to its fleet, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said it will use 157 new plug-in vehicles.

Southern California Edison talked about installing charging stations, and various business groups including automakers put forth their own ideas for promoting plug-in or electric fleets or otherwise outfitting some of their facilities. For example, Pacific Gas and Electric Company will invest $35 million in electric car initiatives.

California Governor, Jerry Brown, attended Drive the Dream to help bolster the efforts of green auto enthusiasts. Brown talked about “both political parties — getting it done” and underscored the need for change, citing estimates that California imports 70% of its oil, and referencing spikes in gas prices. “The sun does blow hot and cold,” Brown said, contrasting the fickleness of the oil industry with the steadfast sustainability of renewables. “It continues to shine.”

In comments made on October 23, PEVC’s Deputy Executive Director, Josh Boone, discussed the organization’s future plans to promote the use of electric and renewable energy car technology. Drive the Dream, Boone said, was aimed at a business and industry audience, but his group also understands the need for more public awareness on the benefits of electric cars.

So the PEVC is planning “public ride and drive” events that will get more consumers behind the wheels of plug-ins. Some of these types of events have also been pioneered on the East Coast. Vermont, for example, held a Drive the Dream Vermont event on September 16.

Seeing electrical charging stations or electric cars on the road in your state may lead you to feel more confident about the future of this market, but big-ticket events like the October Drive the Dream occasion are also landmarks on the way to a greener transportation industry — and a futuristic world where more electrical stations sit alongside conventional gas pumps.

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