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USA: California Legislature Fueling the Future of Electric Vehicles

By: Matthew Madden

The Obama administration’s well-publicized goal of 1M electric vehicles on U.S. roads by the year 2015 is heavily dependent upon the adoption rate of such vehicles in California – an assertion supported by a variety of studies from various stakeholders. The California Energy Commission estimates 1.5M electric vehicles could be on state roads by 2020. Additionally, a recent study published by Pike Research determined that Los Angeles will lead the way in the purchase of electric vehicles from both fleet and consumer perspectives. The same study found that three California municipalities – Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego – rank in the nation’s top six cities in terms of both current and future electric vehicle acceptance. It’s fair to say that as goes California, so goes the nation.

Last week, the state legislature quietly made incremental progress to ensure California fulfills the ambitious goal of becoming the country’s leader in this emerging industry. The state Assembly passed AB 631 – a bill that stipulates that an entity providing electricity as fuel for light-duty electric vehicles will not be regulated as a public utility. The impetus of the bill, authored by Fiona Ma, is an earlier decision by the California Public Utilities Commission. AB 631 provides “market certainty” by extending the CPUC decision into law. A precedent for both the PUC decision and the state bill exists in the alternative fuel arena as the CPUC and state legislature followed a similar path with regard to Compressed Natural Gas.

The practical implications of the bill are particularly relevant to the emerging electric vehicle infrastructure industry – often referred to as EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment). California-based companies such as Coulomb Technologies, Ecotality and Aerovironment are selling electric vehicle charging stations to a wide variety of customers including municipalities, corporations for campus use and retailers.
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