Volkswagen's Electrify America Is Going Rural

Illustration for article titled Volkswagen's Electrify America Is Going Rural
Image: Electrify America

One requirement of the Dieselgate settlement was for Volkswagen to invest heavily in and expand an EV charging network. With a $2 billion investment, Electrify America came about in late 2016 as a result. Now, Electrify America has outlined the third phase of that plan, as Inside EVs reports, and it involves a lot more chargers.

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The allocation of the money is kind of unnecessarily confusing, but the main news is billions of dollars are going to new chargers in increments of a few hundred million at a time. I’ll let InsideEVs explain:

The $2 billion was to be invested over a ten-year period, broken up into four 30-month cycles. Cycle 1 ran from January 2017 to June 2019. We’re currently in Cycle 2 which runs from July 2019 to December 2021. Cycle 3 will start in January of 2022 and last until June of 2024 and Cycle 4 begins in July of 2024 and ends in December of 2026.

The $2 billion investment is also broken up into two separate programs. One for California, which receives $800 million of the settlement ($200 million for each 30-month cycle), and the other is for the rest of the US and receives the $1.2 billion balance ($300 million per cycle). What Electrify America is now reporting are the details for the $200 million 3rd cycle investment of the California program, which begins in January 2022.

While Electrify America is bolstering previous investments in metro areas in California that are already hot spots for EV charging, it is bringing more California cities into the fold. Bakersfield, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Ventura, Santa Barbra, Santa Maria, Visalia, and Stockton are all set to be new areas of investment for Electrify America. Fresno, San Francisco, and San Jose are set to get expansions, as well.

Electrify America also plans to allocate 35 percent of its investments in low income areas, which would be 70 million of every 200 million it spends per cycle in California. That’s adding on to the $81 million it has already spent in rural California so far.

This all goes hand in hand with the California Air Resources Board’s plan of zero new vehicle emissions by 2035. The company’s CEO, Giovanni Palazzo, thinks this will bolster the infrastructure and provide better access to chargers.

“This added investment will provide equitable access to expanded EV infrastructure, technology and services for communities across California, further supporting an electric mobility revolution across all regions of the state.”

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Another interesting part of all of Electrify America’s plan is the Green City Investment. This focuses on the city of Long Beach, which will get $25 million as part of an effort to get city fleet and Long Beach port vehicles to go green, along with the infrastructure to support charging. Electrify America also plans to focus on shared mobility. From InsideEVs:

Another major focus of metro-oriented charging station investment will be in supporting electrification transitions for shared mobility drivers – car share, taxis, and transportation networking company (TNC) drivers, where oftentimes charging solutions are not readily available. Electrify America will also invest approximately $2 million in incentives to lower the cost for these drivers and to incentivize access, purchase, and deployment of electric taxis and TNC vehicles.

This new focus for the company, and the state, has the opportunity to significantly reduce emissions and support drivers. Emissions savings from electrifying a TNC vehicle are nearly three times as high as electrifying an average vehicle in California, and TNC and taxi drivers are often in low-income brackets, so transitioning to an EV can unlock lower cost for some shared mobility drivers, resulting in more take-home pay. 

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While I appreciate the initiative to provide stations in areas both rich and poor, urban and rural, there is still the big issue of updating the power grid so that it can handle more chargers. While some of the investment is destined to go towards “Renewable Generation” it seemed Electrify America envisions this to mean it will “...invest in renewable generation for select stations as site-level energy management tools to help to reduce station operating costs and reduce the carbon consumption for EV recharging.” Think solar panels at charging stations.

The power grid in California is fragile to the point where we in Southern California experience power outages when the wind blows too hard. The foundation of all of this can only work if we have a grid that can support it. Without it, more chargers will just add to the issues we already have with our power grid.

Staff Writer at Jalopnik. Dad. Lover of all things with 4 wheels. Weird interest in buses.

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Admiral Asskicker

Electrify California*