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Critics of California’s ban on gas-only cars are wrong

Conservative pundits who revel in ridiculing “hyper-liberal” California culture have had a field day of late. On Aug. 25, a state agency officially banned the sale of new gasoline-only (note the “only”) cars beginning in 2035. A few days later, with a searing heat wave looming, the California Independent System Operator — responsible for managing the state’s electric power grid — asked residents not to charge their EVs during hours of peak demand.

Well, the liberal-mocking pundits immediately seized on this opportunity to mount a (pardon) trumped-up case against California’s inane foolishness. Dead Teslas will be scattered by the roadside, they surmise, and EV owners will be begging for rides with friends — if they have any — who still power their vehicles by combusting reliable fossil fuels. And long before 2035, mass EV charging will be crashing the entire California grid at regular intervals. Chaos will ensue.

Well, those pundits have it wrong, for six reasons. First, ithe short term:

  • Nearly all EVs and PHEVs cabe easily programmed to charge at any time. California’s “no charging” advisory was for peak hours of demand, from 4 to 9 pm. You simply plug in your EV when coming home and set it to start charging after 9:30.
  • Most newer EVs can do a week of typical commuting on one charge. These high-heat, high-demand events are forecast several days in advance. You simply charge up your EV before the heat hits.

And over the long term:

  • Existing gas cars will not be banned. Many — if not most — households will have both gas and electric cars for years to come. For the past five years, we have had both a plug-in car and a gas car. We put most of our miles on the plug-in, but there are times when we revert to gas — but still use less than 200 gallons annually for two drivers, or about one-sixth the national average.
  • New plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) still can be sold in California after 2035. PHEVs can run on gasoline indefinitely. With a PHEV, you save money and reduce your carbon footprint by putting all your short-range miles on electricity, but gas power is there if you need it.
  • Cost for in-home electricity storage is dropping. That means if you have your own rooftop solar — or even if you don’t — you can have the equivalent of a five-gallon gas can stashed in your garage if you really have to charge up your EV now.
  • Many EV owners already have home solar installations, with more coming. You’re in charge (sorry), so you can juice up your EV all day regardless of restrictions or outages. OK, if you want to charge at night, you will need the aforementioned storage.

And finally, I’ve had a few EV nay-sayers ask me, “What do you do if your EV battery is low and we have a power failure over a wide area?” To which I reply, “What do you do if your gas tank is nearly empty and the power goes out all over the area?”

I know of many home solar installations, but I don’t know of any still-functioning hand-crank gas pumps.

Bruce Borgerson of Ashland is a member of the board for SOHEVA, the electric mobility organization for the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion, and an instructor for OLLI classes on purchasing electric vehicles.