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Report Finds Challenges to California Vehicle Electrification Plans

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) released a new analysis that examines the state of California’s readiness for full vehicle electrification, especially as the state prepares for an all-electric school bus fleet by 2035.

The report California Ready for an Electric Vehicle Future? expands upon ATRI’s 2022 report Charging Infrastructure Challenges for the U.S. Electric Vehicle Fleet. While focused on heavy-duty trucks, the analysis provides potential takeaways to school bus operators.

The 2022 report broke down three key infrastructure-related challenges that are expected to impact the electrification of the trucking industry, which is comprised of more than 12 million freight vehicles. The three challenges facing companies and operators, according to ATRI, are electricity supply and demand, electric vehicle production and truck charging requirements.

 

The ATRI research paper states supplying the required amount of energy to the trucking industry will require utilities to expand infrastructure to generate more electricity and transmit and distribute the electricity to locations where trucks will need to be charged. Most relatable to school transportation, the ATRI paper last year discussed the challenges in infrastructure and how some states are more prepared than others, which remains relevant entering 2024.

California is one of the states mandating electric school bus sales by 2035. Los Angeles County is targeting 45 percent of all school buses operating on roads and highways county-wide to be powered by electricity by the 2028 Summer Olympics. Meanwhile, 100 percent of all new school bus purchases in Los Angeles County would also need to be electric by then.


Related: Los Angeles County Sets Roadmap for New Electric School Bus Sales in Four Years
Related: Senators Call for Stronger EPA Regulation for Heavy Duty Vehicles


Amid already skyrocketing new vehicle costs, the statewide analysis by ATRI focuses on grid sufficiency for powering all vehicles, the cost of electricity, the challenges in sourcing materials for batteries, and the expected increase in supply chain costs.

The research finds that California is the fourth largest producer of electricity in the U.S., the first in net imports of electricity, and the second largest consumer of electricity. However, California’s top three power generators face an uncertain future.

Californians already pay the second-highest average rate for electricity in the nation at $22.33 per kWh. The national average is $12.36 per kWh. San Diego pays the highest state rate at $47.5 kWh, followed by San Francisco at $35 kWh and Los Angeles at $28.7 kWh.


Related: California Governor Signs Bill Requiring Zero-Emissions School Bus Purchases by 2035
Related: More Funding for California Electric School Buses, Infrastructure Now Available
Related: California District ‘Blueprint’ Highlights Benefits of Charge Management Solutions, AC Chargers


The report adds that the sheer number of California vehicles that must transition to electric is also problematic, as the state is No. 1 in the nation in vehicle registrations at 31 million, or about 0.8 vehicles for every resident. Those vehicles also log the most miles traveled at around 310.8 billion.

Additionally, the report suggests California will see an increase in the number of trucks on the road. ATRI cites heavier battery weight resulting in reduced cargo-carrying capacity, requiring an additional 343 new trucks.

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