A Chevrolet Volt plugged in at a charging station at the Metrolink Station on Tuesday, March 7, 2013 in City of Industry, Calif. (Keith Birmingham Pasadena Star-News)
The four-county, clean-air plan whacks air emissions in hundreds of ways, from controls on factories and refineries, to newfangled formulas for paint to a greenhouse gas reduction scheme that involves cap-and-trade auctions.
Some call for a more direct approach. What if cities and the South Coast Air Quality Management District simply gave away cash to people who buy electric cars?
That’s exactly what the city of Industry and the SCAQMD are doing. These two unlikely bedfellows are launching a $13 million, two-year program to subsidize the lease of up to 60 new all-electric cars. Anyone leasing a Nissan Leaf, for example, would get between $100 and $125 per month rebate, lowering one’s monthly car payment to no more than $100 a month. Plus, they will throw in free charging and free parking.
“Free parking? And charges for free! It is the best deal. You can’t commute for less than that,” said Richard Mrlik, president of Intertie, an energy consulting firm based in San Francisco hired by Industry. The two governmental entities suddenly find themselves in the car business and they are dealing.
“The EV lease program is designed to stimulate electric transportation in the L.A. basin,” Mrlik added. “The objective of the program is to show commuters they can commute at a lower lifecycle cost using electric transportation, vis a vie internal combustion. ”
Just like any new car customer, future
electric car owners signing on the dotted line for this program need to read the fine print.
Although applicants will be chosen on a first-come, first-served basis, Mrlik said, those who say they are carpooling will be moved to the top of the pile. Also, owners can only get the free charge at the Industry Metrolink station, 600 S. Brea Canyon Road, near Walnut. Third, they must leave the car for charging and hop the train to work.
“Yes. That’s the whole concept. You leave your car there, charging, and off you go (on the train),” he said. Intertie will be measuring how many pounds of emissions are kept from the air and also, pounds of greenhouse gases reduced per commuter miles driven.
In 2006, the state passed a law, known as AB32, that requires statewide greenhouse gases – which contribute to global climate change – to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020, or about 30 percent. The goal is 80 percent reduction by 2050.
In the six-county region of Southern California Association of Governments, a 16 percent reduction in greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide and methane, is required by 2035 despite the arrival of 4 million more people. SCAG Director Hasan Ikhrata called the Industry subsidy program “a win-win project that provides models for Southern California’s future,” and added: “The city of Industry has developed a multipronged approach that benefits drivers, the transit system and alternative energy. ”
Industry is adding another 32 charging stations to the parking lot, which already is equipped with 8,000 solar panels on 940 carports. Surplus energy is sold to Southern California Edison.
A survey attracted more than 28 customers – the initial target of the first phase – but Industry and its partners could accommodate 60 new electric cars, Mrlik said. He said it is a matter of running conduit to double the number of EV charging stations to 64, something that can be done in a week’s time. “We could expand it up to 500 vehicles at full deployment,” he said.
Applicants are being sought through the city and also through the upcoming website industryev.com, he said. The site is not yet operational but may be up by the end of the month, he said.
Early surveys show interest from Walnut, Diamond Bar and West Covina residents living about 10 miles from the station. Because the Leaf has a range of about 60-80 miles, “the issue of range anxiety isn’t really there,” Mrlik said.
Paul Neuhausen, president of EVA of North Los Angeles, an electric car club based in the San Fernando Valley, praised the idea, saying it will boost the number of electric cars on SoCal roads. The Nissan Leaf owner and traveling salesman used to spend $250 to $300 a month on gasoline but now pays about $40 a month to charge the car, so the economics benefit the car owner.
“The next step is not so much the vehicle, but the infrastructure,” Neuhausen said. “We need more chargers. My motto is ABC: Always Be Charging,” said the salesman from Winetka, who charges his car at Metrolink stations in Van Nuys and Chatsworth.
Foothill Transit, which is building a four-story parking structure addition to the Metrolink station in Industry, will add 18 electric vehicle charging spots out of 630 total spaces, said spokesperson Felicia Friesema. However, the transit agency which operates the blue-and-white buses is not participating in the subsidy program. Come September, its 497 line to Los Angeles will operate out of the new center. It carries passengers from Chino to Industry to Los Angeles, she said.
The new parking structure will be solar-ready but Industry will be providing the solar panels, she said. Two hundred spaces are reserved for Industry and the rest may be reserved for those carrying Foothill Transit passes.