Last week, the California Air Resources Board gave the final go-ahead to Electrify America (Volkswagen’s subsidiary) on their first $200 million investment for zero emission electric vehicles. This funding is part of the much-talked-about Volkswagen settlement but is not the commonly referenced penalty or mitigation funding, but rather an investment from Volkswagen (from which they want to see a return). This plan designates Los Angeles as the recipient of the largest amount of any metropolitan area in the US for electric vehicle charging infrastructure (up to $25 million)—a decision that makes good, strategic and business sense for the Electrify America team—with a significant share of this funding going toward the region’s disadvantaged communities.
When many outside of the region think of Los Angeles, images of the famous entertainment industry come to mind. The global visibility the region has received as the Entertainment Capital of the world has propelled the region forward as a key tourism hub, attracting over 47 million visitors annually, but Los Angeles is much more than the glitz and glamor of Hollywood. The region is renowned for:
- its leadership in the automotive industry as the automotive design capital as well as a leader in the manufacturing and assembly of new electric transportation options, such as electric buses and charging infrastructure;
- is home to the nation’s busiest seaports with the Port of LA and Port of Long Beach, carrying 40% of the US inbound containerized freight;
- contains the largest in-state vehicle market with over 7.7 million vehicles (and a growing share of them are electric vehicles); and
- some of the strongest diversity of any major metropolitan area with people from more than 180 countries, speaking 140 different languages.
That’s to name a few other characteristics from LA that perhaps don’t receive as much attention. But with these positive contributions to LA come challenges: Los Angeles has the worst ozone in the nation, stemming largely from vehicle pollution (an issue that investment in electric vehicles helps address) and over half of the state’s disadvantaged communities who suffer a disproportionate impact from this pollution. Investment in electric vehicles Los Angeles kills two birds with one stone, so-to-speak, helping simultaneously penetrate a significantly large market (one that has been dominated mainly by traditionally fueled vehicles and is ripe for disruption) while also helping to improve the air quality and the pollution burden felt within the region.
To attract the initial round of funding from Electrify America, the City of Los Angeles, LA n Sync and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) put together a coalition of disparate organizations from government as well as the environmental, business, and philanthropic communities to advocate for Los Angeles as an ideal place for transportation electrification investment. While Los Angeles is large, it is not unmanageable, and there exists an impressive network of organizations who share a common belief that we need to do more to address air quality needs while simultaneously elevating the region’s most environmentally and income disadvantaged populations.
LA is ripe for additional investment in transportation electrification across all weight classes and sectors of the economy and has an infrastructure in place to accept and expedite this investment. When I testified at the CARB hearing last week, I said that there’s a reason why companies come to scale in Los Angeles: if you can make it work here you can make it work anywhere. And I believe that. Investing in LA’s EV future allows companies access to a destination that will be seen and experienced globally: maximizing visibility, utilization and benefit for the communities.