More Charging Infrastructure Coming for Electric Trucks and Buses in California

August 15, 2019 | 7:18 pm
Photo: Jimmy O'Dea
Jimmy O'Dea
Former Contributor

Great news from San Francisco today. The California Public Utilities Commission approved San Diego Gas and Electric’s (SDG&E) five-year, $107 million proposal to invest in charging infrastructure for electric trucks and buses. The proposal will result in at least 3,000 new electric trucks and buses in the San Diego region. But the utility is aiming for the budget to support closer to 6,000 vehicles.

Approval of SDG&E’s proposal is a significant step towards cleaning the air and meeting climate goals in the San Diego region and California. And utilities have an important role to play in the electrification of trucks and buses not only through infrastructure investments, but also by offering fair electricity rates for vehicle charging.

The funding will support Class 2 through Class 8 vehicles such as delivery trucks, transit buses, garbage trucks, port trucks, and school buses. Infrastructure for off-road vehicles (e.g., forklifts) and transport refrigeration units is also eligible for funding.

Recognizing inequities in exposure to air pollution from vehicles, at least 30 percent of the funding must be invested in communities most burdened by pollution. These include neighborhoods such as Barrio Logan, Logan Heights, and Sherman Heights, if you are familiar with San Diego.

A pilot for electric school buses

The approved proposal also includes plans for a “vehicle to grid” (V2G) electric school bus pilot project. SDG&E will partner with a school district to purchase ten electric buses and install charging infrastructure capable of using energy from the buses’ batteries for the electric grid. So, while children are at school, their buses will be sending clean energy back to the grid.

The relatively high downtime of school buses compared to other heavy-duty vehicles make them prime candidates for V2G. I expect that many utilities and school districts will closely follow the outcomes of this project. V2G offers a potential revenue stream for school districts or anyone else that sells power from vehicles to the grid.

The proposal had a lot of support

UCS was one of 15 stakeholders, or “parties,” that reached a settlement agreement supporting a modified version of SDG&E’s original proposal. Parties represented a broad range of interests, including community groups, ratepayer advocates, charging companies, electric truck companies, and environmental organizations.

This broad agreement made for a relatively easy vote by the Commission. The final decision was nearly identical to the settlement agreement.

The funding will support electrical upgrades and equipment needed for electric vehicles. School districts, transit agencies, and small businesses in disadvantaged communities will also be eligible for a 50 percent rebate on the actual vehicle charger. A minimum of 10 percent of the investment must serve transit buses and school buses. A maximum of 10 percent of the budget can serve electric forklifts (which are already trending towards electrification).

SDG&E’s funding will come in two phases, $84 million in the first phase, and $23 million will become available in the second phase if SDG&E shows progress towards deployment goals outlined in the settlement agreement.

The investments span a five-year period and will be paid for by all SDG&E customers. SDG&E estimates it will add $0.38/month in 2022 to the bill of a residential customer that uses 500 kWh of electricity per month, which is roughly average for SDG&E customers.

In all, progress on air quality and climate change can come in many forms – large demonstrations and marches in the street and decisions at public utility commissions that fly under the radar of most. All are important to getting where we need to be. If you’re a business or entity thinking about buying an electric truck or bus and get your electricity from SDG&E, you should contact them about benefiting from this funding.