Mary Nichols Rock Star of Air Quality & Champion of the Environment Alt Car Expo Riverside 2019

In Riverside, California, Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB),  delivered a keynote address at the AltCar Expo to a crowd. She shared how California needs to change to clean up the air. Local municipalities and infrastructure providers also offered their goals and guidance.

Before the event, CARB announced that it will work with local schools, community colleges and universities to create STEM training and opportunities for air quality and science career pathways in the future.

Riverside’s Mayor, Rusty Bailey, who arrived at the event riding his bicycle, noted that Riverside was one of the earliest cities “to offer rebates for hybrids before they were cool and it is one of the largest clean fuel fleets.”

Mayor Bailey introduced Mary Nichols as “the rock star of air quality and champion of the environment – who is not afraid to take on the president.” She’s criticised the Trump administration for removing California’s power to set its own emissions standards.

Nichols has been at the forefront of clean air programs since the early days. She was at the first AltCar Expo in 2005 when there were very few alternative car options.

“When my friend Ed Begley Jr. came to event in my backyard we made a space in my driveway and so that we could run a cord through window and plugin it so that he could drive home,” recalled Nichols.

She’s happy to add that there are now over 46 EV models and California is home to half the EVs in the country.

Rebates and Incentives

Nichols finds it encouraging to see that in 2010 there were fewer than 100 EVs sold the whole year, while last month 15,000 EVs were sold. She says that rebates are an important contributor. There are also more hydrogen fuelling stations and public charging stations.

“While it is encouraging, it is not enough. We are 12% of the state’s official goal of 5 million EVs by 2030. We’re not going to get there at the rate we’re going now. We need to sell more EVs to more people in the state and need to start doing it soon. We can’t make our climate and clean air targets without a massive transformation with not just the way we move around but the way we move our stuff,” says Nichols.

She adds: “It’s not just about our responsibility to the global environment but (our) very own health.”

Nichols explained it’s important that people see more EVs on the road and more charging stations as well as know about rebates and incentives.

Along with clean cars and fuel, she says the state has to tackle a more difficult and elusive target, better city design to make it possible to leave the car at home or use a car on demand.

Nichols pointed out that the automotive industry is not supporting the Trump administration. ”They are investing in the future because they know we are the market – to what is increasingly a global market,” she says.

When Auto Futures asked Nichols what she would like the rest of the world to know about CARB and California, she told us: “We have a great diversity of people and regions in our state. We’re not looking at electric vehicles as toys that are something for the rich and famous. EVs are intended to be for the mass market and we are doing whatever we can to make that happen.”

Junking the ‘Junkers’

An excellent example of a diverse community that is working on clean air programs is the city of Colton. Jessica Sutorus, environmental conservation supervisor at Colton, says the community is in the 90th percentile of disadvantage. The city used programs that helped bring EVs through support from CARB by offering electric drive vehicle events for citizens, installing charging stations and funding vouchers.

They encouraged residents to turn in their old junk cars (junkers) for clean electric and low-carbon cars with vouchers as much as $9500. Colton also encouraged employees through electric drive events. The city couldn’t put in chargers in multi-family dwelling units so they are installed on the curb.

“We dedicated resources so that any one of the staff employees at the city of Colton that drive an electric vehicle to work has a place to charge. We think it’s important if we are going to tell our residents we want them to drive electric vehicles then the staff needs to be out there driving electric vehicles,” says Sutorus.

“I’m proud to say I have over fifteen staff members who drive electric and hybrid vehicles.”

“We enrolled in Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits. After four years, I sold those credits and have funding to support rebate programs,” says Sutorus.

No More Bad Air Days

Also important to the adoption of electric vehicles is making charging accessible and fast.

“68% of electric vehicles are second vehicles,” says Matthew Nelson, Director of Government Affairs for Electrify America. Electrify America is installing fast electric chargers in groups of four to ten that can power up to 350 KW that requires its own transformer.

To enable more use of EVs are primary vehicles, says Nelson, “We have to make the charging process better than a gas station.”

Sutorus summed up the theme of the event “Bad air has no boundaries. We are striving for any opportunity to reduce emissions.”