California’s Air Resources Board held a public hearing last Friday on whether to approve Electrify America’s second cycle of proposed investments which would start in July 2019 but the board delayed a decision on approval until it’s December meeting.
The item was the last on a day-long agenda that was overtaken by 80 or more members of the public who mostly spoke in strident opposition to a proposed California Tropical Forest Standard. Opponents expressed concern about the impact of the proposal on the lives of indigenous peoples in the US, Mexico, and other countries. As a result of that unexpectedly long testimony, some members of the board left late in the day before the hearing was finished.
CARB staff presented their analysis of the Electrify America proposal to the board and urged approval of the plans. Electrify America CEO Giovanni Palazzo updated the board on the company’s latest status and urged approval of the plan which he said was developed with extensive consultation from outside organizations and public feedback.
Palazzo said work on five Electrify America DC charging sites in California had been completed. Among those are locations in Torrance, Montebello, and Gardena in the greater Los Angeles area. Another of the completed locations is in the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove. The final location is in Novato just north of San Francisco.
The Torrance location is now open and is a 50 kW community charging site with 3 chargers along with one 240V AC charging cable. The Montebello and Elk Grove sites share a similar design but are not yet open. The Gardena location may be similar. Novato is a highway corridor location with six charging spaces supporting 150 kW and two spaces labeled as supporting up to 350 kW. All of the location support DC charging using the CCS standard but include one cable that support the CHAdeMO standard used primarily by the Nissan LEAF.
Overall, Palazzo said 110 of the roughly 160 planned first cycle California locations now have site leases and 71 have specific engineering designs. Of those, 63 permits have been submitted and 20 permits have been granted.
Due to insufficient board members being present for a voting quorum at the end of the day, the item was rolled over to the December meeting for final discussion and voting. The exact meeting date for the continuing discussion has not yet been set but should fall on December 13 or 14.
Unlike the first cycle plans which were delayed by several months of late-stage negotiations between VW and CARB in 2017, the second cycle plan had appeared on track towards approval but this could still change.
The new 30-month round of spending redirects the focus of the company’s $200 million in funding from highway corridor DC charging locations in the first cycle towards DC charging aimed at urban drivers who may not have access to overnight charging at home.
Board member Dean Florez, a former state senator, urged CARB staff to organize a “stakeholder” meeting before the next vote to allow more extensive feedback on aspects of the plan.
In their comments at Friday’s hearing, both ChargePoint and EVgo expressed concern about the plan’s emphasis on metropolitan DC charging and urged a continuation of the first cycle’s greater focus on highway charging in support of long-distance driving. Both also alleged that Electrify America has been paying excessive rates to property owners to lease land at prime charging installation sites.
ChargePoint and EVgo have predominantly located their own charging facilities in metropolitan areas. Metro areas have historically had higher charger utilization rates and bring higher revenues. EVgo had previously supported Electrify America’s first cycle plans during 2017 CARB hearings while ChargePoint has been a persistent critic.
The proposal for cycle 2 spending in areas outside of California has not yet been released by Electrify America but is due by April of 2019 for EPA review and approval.
Funding for Electrify America, a Volkswagen subsidiary, comes as a result of legal settlements with the state of California and with the federal government related to the so-called “dieselgate” scandal.
VW is putting aside a total of $2 billion which will be spent in 4 investment cycles over 10 years. Of that amount, 40 percent or $800 million is dedicated to California.