Los Angeles: The New Electric Car Launchpad?

electric-vehicle-charging-station-sign_large_imageThe unthinkable has happened. Los Angeles plans on resurrecting the city’s 400 abandoned electric vehicle charging stations that have been collecting dust for the past nine years, and to also add one hundred more, its mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, announced early this month at the LA Auto Show. In addition, the city plans to offer incentives of up to $2000 each for the first 5000 residential customers to install home chargers for their plug-in vehicles. To top it all off, the city has earmarked $6 million to purchase its own electric fleet.

This plan is intended to attract battery and charging station manufacturers to Los Angeles. The city hopes to generate green jobs, lure clean tech investors, reduce pollution, and reduce oil consumption.

But it’s not acting alone. As we know, it takes a network to create a clean tech market. The city is joined by automakers Nissan, General Motors, and Ford — each of whom has committed to plug-in vehicle production in the near future. Southern California Edison, the nation’s leading utility of renewable energy generation, is also part of this network. Los Angeles is joined by four neighboring municipalities in this endeavor as well.

For those who live in the LA region, this could not be better news. I, myself, am constantly reminded of the city’s early electric vehicle history every time I drive past the ubiquitous blue EV charging station signs. Two years ago, my brother and I decided to visit some of these abandoned charging stations. We found prime parking spaces in six major shopping centers and city buildings within a five-mile radius of our house. Each of the spaces were empty and the chargers were in dismal shape. The fact that they are going back in operation is truly monumental.

It is also significant that 5000 lucky residents may get their home charging system subsidized by the city. Last year, when I found out I was chosen to be a field test driver for the electric Mini Cooper, I realized I would have to pick up the tab for the thousand dollars in charging installation costs. If the city is offering to help cover these costs, this will be a significant incentive for early electric vehicle adopters.

Bravo to the city of Los Angeles for having the foresight and vision to work towards the path of zero emission mobility. It could not come at a better time.

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at www.misselectric.com.

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