Californian electricity supply company Southern California Edison has begun construction on the first five EV charging sites for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles across its service area.
The five EV charging sites are the first of the mammoth $US356 million ($A511 million) ‘Charge Ready Transport’ program which was launched by Southern California Edison (SCE) back in May of 2019 and designed to help truck and industrial vehicle fleet owners “convert from fossil fuel to clean electric transportation.”
The program is aiming to install at least 870 commercial charging stations over the next five years – enough infrastructure to support at least 8,490 industrial EVs, according to SCE.
The first five charging locations are Antelope Valley Schools Transportation Agency in Lancaster, Visalia Unified School District in Visalia, Pleasant View Elementary School in Porterville, and two sites for Porterville Transit in Porterville.
“These five sites will support over 80 new electric school and transit buses in a region with notoriously bad air quality,” said Justin Bardin, SCE program manager for Charge Ready Transport. “These sites are particularly exciting because they are not small pilots, but, rather, significant projects that will propel these organizations toward a clean transportation future.”
Beyond the school and transit bus fleets which will be served by this first allotment of industrial EV charging stations, the program is widely designed to serve electric delivery trucks and vans, yard haulers, and big rigs as well as industrial equipment like forklifts.
SCE’s plan – which was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in 2018 – empowers the utility to pay for and install the electric infrastructure to support charging stations for an EV fleet.
Buying the actual charging stations will be up to each individual location, but certain businesses, including transit agencies and school bus operators may be eligible for rebates covering part of the cost of buying an EV charging station.
The plan is an important step forward for one of the country’s largest electricity suppliers and serves as a beacon that some US utilities are considering the place of industrial EVs in their plans.
For example, construction began only a few days before the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force published their policy recommendations for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, which included a proposed conversion of all 500,000 school buses across the country to zero-emission alternatives within five years.
The Charge Ready Transport program was designed specifically with the requirements of Southern California in mind, where the goods movement industry plans a significant role in the areas economy, but remains a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
“In order to achieve our state’s climate goals, we believe that 75% of the state’s vehicles need to be electric by 2045,” said Carter Prescott, principal manager of operations for SCE’s eMobility team.
“That includes 67% of medium-duty vehicles and 38% of heavy-duty vehicles,” Prescott said, citing figures from SCE’s recently released Pathway 2045- Opens in new window, the company’s analysis of steps that California must take to meet the 2045 goals to clean our electricity grid and reach carbon neutrality.
“Investing in electric transportation is not only good for the environment. It also creates jobs, which will help significantly with economic recovery from COVID-19, and makes more efficient use of the grid, which will reduce rates for all customers. That’s a win-win-win for all of us.”
Construction of the first commercial EV sites also began despite the challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic – a pandemic acknowledged as reality in California. Southern California Edison was proud to highlight their ability to begin construction despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic, highlighting the “creative approaches at various stages of planning and design.”
“We don’t hold on-site meetings with customers” because of COVID-19 restrictions, said Simon Horton, SCE senior project manager. “And only having a limited number of construction personnel on the site at any one time adds a layer of complexity that we’ve never dealt with before.”
“For construction inspections, we would usually have city inspectors show up and get signoff at various stages of construction,” Horton added. “As a workaround, we used drive-by inspections and Facetime to get virtual approval rather than in-person.”
In fact, as a result of their efficacy in SCE’s Charge Ready Transport projects, Facetime inspections have actually become COVID-19 standard practice for some cities, while review and approval of design work has also been transitioned from in-person to virtual meetings.
“The great thing is that as long as we’re following CDC guidelines for distancing, we’re able to keep a lot of people employed during this time that would otherwise be sitting idle,” Horton said.