California’s Proposition 30 Would Put the Transition to Clean Transportation in the Fast Lane

October 6, 2022 | 11:36 am
Oxana Melis/Unsplash
David Reichmuth
Senior Engineer, Clean Transportation Program

Climate change in California isn’t a future threat; we are already dealing with extreme drought and destructive wildfires. We need to slow global warming, and to do so we must greatly reduce emissions from passenger cars and trucks. In California, these vehicles produce more than one quarter of the state’s human-caused emissions, more than agriculture and commercial and residential buildings combined. 

Switching from gasoline and diesel engines to electric motors is one of the most effective ways to reduce both global warming emissions and air pollution. In California, driving on electricity using the average plug-in vehicle can lower emissions to that of a hypothetical gasoline car that achieves 116 miles per gallon fuel economy. Put another way, driving the average electric car in California reduces emissions by over 70% compared to the average new gasoline car. And this benefit will only grow over time as California’s electric grid gets cleaner with more generation from renewable sources. 

This November, California voters have a chance to speed the transition from gasoline to electricity by approving Proposition 30. This proposal would support both zero- emission vehicle incentive programs and charging infrastructure investments while complementing existing regulations on clean vehicles.

What does Proposition 30 do?

If adopted by voters, the measure would raise about $4 billion annually from increased taxes on income in excess of $2 million (only the wealthiest 0.2% of taxpayers), and directs revenues to:

  1. Incentives for zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and other clean mobility options (45%), 
  2. Zero-emission vehicle fueling and charging infrastructure (35%)
  3. Wildfire suppression and prevention (20%). 

Incentives to help buy cleaner vehicles

The purpose of the ballot initiative is to make ZEVs accessible and affordable to all California residents and to reduce emissions as quickly as possible from passenger cars, which are the state’s largest single source of global-warming emissions and a significant source of air pollution. 

Most of this money must be used to help households, businesses, and governments pay for part of the cost of new passenger ZEVs (such as electric cars, vans, and pick-up trucks). The rest of the money would be available for other programs. These include payments to businesses and governments to help buy large ZEVs (such as trucks and buses) and programs that encourage less driving and improve local air quality. 

The money raised would also go to programs focused on:

  • Converting medium-, heavy-duty, and off-road vehicles to ZEVs with a focus on benefiting the air quality in low-income and disadvantaged communities.
  • Increasing access to zero-emission clean mobility options that do not require car ownership. 
  • Providing access and financial assistance to moderate-income, low-income, and disadvantaged communities and consumers to purchase or lease ZEVs. 
  • Converting passenger vehicles that are used for high-mileage purposes to ZEVs as quickly as possible in order to reduce global-warming emissions as quickly as possible. 

Investments in charging stations

This money would be used to install and operate ZEV charging and fueling stations at places such as apartment buildings, single-family homes, and public locations.

For both vehicle and charging station investments, at least half of the money must be spent on projects that benefit people who live in or near heavily polluted and/or low-income communities. The rest of the money could be spent on projects anywhere in the state.

Why is Lyft involved?

If you’ve seen coverage of Proposition 30, you’re probably aware that the ride-hailing company Lyft is backing this proposition. Lyft would indirectly benefit from programs that accelerate the transition of vehicles in California from petroleum to electricity because its drivers  would have greater access to zero-emission vehicles. Lyft, along with Uber and other “transportation network companies” are required by the Clean Miles Standard to reduce their emissions and switch to ZEVs by 2030, and policies that accelerate adoption and use of ZEVs among California drivers will help them comply. UCS was a leader in shaping and advocating for the Clean Miles Standard to ensure that emissions from these ride-hailing companies are low as possible. 

Proposition 30 will mean more ZEVs on the road at an earlier date and therefore should help Lyft and Uber reduce emissions from their operations. But the incentives and infrastructure investments are not designed to specifically benefit these companies, but to help the drivers in California make a faster transition to cleaner transportation. The assertion that Proposition 30 benefits one company alone is simply false.

Who supports Proposition 30 and why?

UCS supports Proposition 30 because it will reduce air pollution and global-warming emissions in the state. something we need to do as quickly as possible to slow climate change and reduce exposure to harmful air pollution. The investments possible with the funding from Proposition 30 are complementary to the regulatory advances that UCS has advocated for in the state, including the Clean Miles Standard, the Advanced Clean Cars II (including ZEV) regulation, the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, and the upcoming Advanced Clean Fleets rule.

UCS is not alone in supporting Proposition 30. Other advocacy groups like Coalition for Clean Air, Natural Resources Defense Council, American Lung Association, and the California Environmental Voters to name a few are also supporting this effort. 

Mayors across the state also support Proposition 30, including the mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Long Beach, and San Jose.

Voters in California will soon be receiving ballots in the mail. A “yes” vote on Proposition 30 will help slow climate change, mitigate global-warming fueled wildfire, and clean the air.