11 Oct 18

5 Million Zero-Emission Vehicles in California

California, and more specifically Silicon Valley, has some of the highest sales rates of electric vehicles globally. Let’s have a look at some crucial commitments behind the push for EVs.

California’s commitment

Despite president Trump’s non-belief in climate change and the necessary measures to combat air pollution and greenhouse gases, California has set its own regulations that force automakers to sell a certain share of zero-emission vehicles. 

California’s governor Jerry Brown wants to see 5 million zero-emission vehicles on Californian roads by 2030, up from the less than 400,000 now. Earlier on, Brown had already set the goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2025; this includes plug-in hybrids as well as pure battery electrics and fuel-cell vehicles. 

Therefore, California’s electric utility companies pledged in May to spend about $768 million on charging infrastructure for EVs, cars, trucks and buses. The electrification of transport is one of the decarbonisation strategies in California, in order to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The pledge is a part of a series of programmes by utility companies to encourage the deployment of EVs in the state of California, such as $200 million in 2016 for chargers at workplaces; and $43 million in January 2018 for 15 short-term pilot projects.


Moreover, the California Air Resources Board decided to spend up to $423 million from the Volkswagen emissions-cheating settlement on incentives for electric school and municipal buses, zero-emission freight trucks and replacements for polluting port equipment. In total, Volkswagen is committed to spend a total of $1.2 billion on clean transportation in California.

San Francisco

Additional, San Francisco put in place some local incentives to further promote local deployment of EVs. In 2015, Mayor Lee established the Electric Vehicle Working Group (EVWG) in order to ensure that EVs are ‘available, affordable and easy to use for all San Franciscans.’ 

The recommendations of the EVSG resulted in two ordinances which were passed in 2017. (1) The City Fleet Zero Emission Vehicle Ordinance, in order to electrify the City’s light duty passenger sedan fleet by 2022; (2) the EV Readiness Ordinance, mandating all car parks in new buildings to be ready for EV charging. 

Additionally, since 30 October 2017, a subcommittee of the EVWG is in charge of deploying a citywide Electric Mobility Strategy focused on electrification of private vehicles within the transportation sector. This strategy should be ready by the autumn of 2018.


As a result of the many incentives and initiatives for EV deployment, California accounts for about half of all sales of electric or plug-in hybrids in the US. Moreover, The San Jose, San Francisco, and Los Angeles metropolitan areas have some of the highest electric vehicle sales and market shares in the world. In 2017, these three regions together had more than a quarter-million electric vehicles on their roads.

Even though the transition is only at an early stage, especially outside the wealthier areas, a report of the International Council on Clean Transportation believes the 5 million goal can be reached by 2030.

Authored by: Fien Van den steen