Sonoma County’s emissions from transportation account for roughly 60 percent of total emissions, according to RCPA’s most recent greenhouse gas inventory.

To meet RCPA’s 2030 goal of achieving carbon neutrality, we must transform our transportation system from one based on fossil fuel powered cars to one that is multimodal, with more feasible clean power options for getting around in Sonoma County. These options include safer bicycle and pedestrian routes, improved transit service, and replacement of fossil fuel powered vehicles with electric vehicles (EVs).

To achieve this goal, RCPA’s Sonoma Climate Mobilization Strategy includes two strategies focused on changing how we get around in Sonoma County:

  1. Drive Less Sonoma County – Make it easier to get around Sonoma County without a car.
  2. EV Access for All Partnership – Accelerate the transition to 100 percent electric vehicles (EVs) for all transportation needs not otherwise met by biking or walking.

This post will focus on RCPA’s work to accelerate the transition from fossil fuel powered to electric vehicles.

Over the last few years, RCPA has worked to provide education and resources to help local drivers transition to EVs and to increase the number of publicly accessible EV charging stations in Sonoma County. For example, RCPA:

  • Implemented the Sonoma EV 101 service – A 24/7 responsive online knowledge base for common electric vehicle questions. The knowledge base includes articles that address three core questions: 1. What kind of EVs can I buy? 2. Where can I charge them? And 3. What rebates and incentives are available?
  • Promoted workplace charging stations by contacting over 40 private and public employers to share information about workplace charging solutions and sources of grant funding to assist employers in installing charging stations.
  • Refined existing EV charging station siting analysis with an improved online map that shows opportunities for charging in Sonoma County. Using this updated map, the team developed a list of the top 20 electric vehicle charging station siting zones in Sonoma County and presented them to elected representatives of each jurisdiction along with EV charging network providers.

How many EVs are there in Sonoma County?

At the end of 2020, there were almost 10,000 EVs registered in Sonoma County (figure 1) [1]. An additional 1,440 EVs were sold in Sonoma County during the first half of 2021.

Figure 1: EVs Registered in Sonoma County as of December 31, 2020

The rate of EV adoption will need to increase significantly to meet the goal of 100,000 registered EVs in Sonoma County by 2030 (figure 2). This goal was established in the 2017 Shift Sonoma County Low Carbon Transportation Action Plan.

In its Electric Vehicle 2021 report, the Bloomberg New Energy Forecast (BNEF) predicted that the global outlook for EV adoption is improving based on a combination of policy support, improvements in battery performance, decreases in battery cost, expansion of EV charging infrastructure, and growing commitments from automakers to transition their fleets to EVs.[2]

The number of available EV models has increased significantly from under 100 models in 2015 to over 350 in 2020. Over the same period, the average range of EVs increased from roughly 130 to 210 miles.[3]

An often overlooked benefit of EVs is the money they save consumers in ongoing fuel and maintenance costs. In a recent study of relative ownership costs of currently available EVs and comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, Consumer Reports found the following:[4]

  • Seven of the nine most popular EVs on the market cost first-time owners less than the best-selling, and top-rated ICE vehicles in their class, in many cases matching or exceeding the performance of some of the top-performing ICE vehicles in their class.
  • Lifetime ownership costs for all nine of the most popular EVs on the market under $50,000 are many thousands of dollars cheaper than the best-selling and top-rated ICE vehicles in their class, with typical savings ranging between $6,000 and $10,000.

The rapid advances in the EV market combined with State and federal policy and funding support will make EVs accessible to a broader range of people and increase the likelihood of Sonoma County meeting its 2030 EV adoption goal.

Where are the EV charging stations?

The Shift plan set a goal of 11,000 public and shared private charging stations by 2030. As of July 1, 2021, Sonoma County had a total of 791 charging stations, the majority of which are Level 2 (figure 3). Level 2 chargers can provide about 14 to 35 miles of range per hour of charging compared with about 5 miles of range per hour for Level 1 chargers. DC Fast chargers are able to charge an EV to 80 percent capacity in about 30 minutes. [5]

Figure 3: Public and Shared Private EV Chargers in Sonoma County as of July 1, 2021

Between 2018 and 2021, the number of EV charging stations in Sonoma County increased as shown in Figure 4. New EV charging stations were installed in portions of the county such as the coast that previously did not have access to public EV charging stations.

A map with more details on EV charging stations is available at https://www.plugshare.com/.

Figure 4: Sonoma County EV Charging Stations 2018 vs. 2021

What will it take to meet our 2030 EV goal?

The transition to EVs appears to be at a tipping point due to increased awareness of the climate crisis, rapid expansion of EV models and battery range, and supportive public policies like Governor Newsom’s executive order banning sales of new gas powered vehicles in 2035. What needs to happen here in Sonoma County to achieve our local goal of 100,000 registered EVs by 2030?

One critical action will be to make EVs more accessible and affordable to all Sonoma County residents. Early adopters of EVs have been primarily higher income households with access to private charging in single family homes. To reach Sonoma County’s 2030 EV adoption target, EVs must become more accessible to lower income households and residents of multifamily units.

RCPA is working with the Decommissioning Internal-Combustion Vehicles (DIVE) Group at Stanford University [6] to support community engagement on the topic of EVs in Sonoma County. RCPA wants to increase its understanding of the needs and barriers relative to EV adoption in low income communities in order to design more effective EV policies and programs.

RCPA will also continue working with local jurisdictions and partner agencies to facilitate the deployment of more public EV charging stations, with a focus on workplace and multifamily locations. RCPA plans to research policy options to require installation of EV charging infrastructure and equipment in public locations as well as research upcoming funding opportunities to accelerate deployment.

Reducing transportation emissions in Sonoma County is challenging. Electrifying our transportation system is one key strategy to get us to zero emissions. We also need to create more options for getting around without a car and will explore these opportunities in future blog posts.

In the meantime, let us know your ideas for lightening the carbon footprint of our transportation system by sending an email to info@rcpa.ca.gov.


References:

[1] California Energy Commission (2021). California Energy Commission Zero Emission Vehicle and Infrastructure Statistics. Data last updated 4/30/21. Retrieved 8/23/21 from https://www.energy.ca.gov/zevstats

[2] Electric Vehicle Outlook 2021, BloombergNEF, https://about.bnef.com/electric-vehicle-outlook/

[3] IEA, Electric car models available globally and average range, 2015-2020, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/data-and-statistics/charts/electric-car-models-available-globally-and-average-range-2015-2020-2

[4] Electric Vehicle Ownership Costs: Today’s Electric Vehicles Offer Big Savings for Consumers, Consumer Reports, October 2020, https://advocacy.consumerreports.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/EV-Ownership-Cost-Final-Report-1.pdf

[5] California Energy Commission (2021). California Energy Commission Zero Emission Vehicle and Infrastructure Statistics. Data last updated 7/1/21. Retrieved 8/23/21 from http://www.energy.ca.gov/zevstats.

[6] More information on the Decommissioning Internal-Combustion Vehicles Group is available at https://dived8.sites.stanford.edu/