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Climate group sees ‘inevitable’ shift to electric vehicles in Sonoma County

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

EV report: Beyond combustion in Sonoma County

Meeting Sonoma County’s climate protection goals will require putting 138,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030 and effectively ending sales of fuel-burning cars, a local environmental group said in a report due for release this week.
“We must now begin to create a future beyond combustion,” said the report by the Santa Rosa-based Center for Climate Protection.
Advocating a dramatic shift in consumer preferences and current automobile industry sales, the report said electric vehicle (EV) sales must grow by 30 percent a year for the next 13 years to meet the county’s goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Sonoma County has an estimated 4,500 EVs rolling now, the center said in its report, “Beyond Combustion: Electric Vehicle Trends, Goals and Recommendations for Sonoma County.
”Sales of plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars, both considered in the EV category, accounted for nearly 5 percent of the state’s new car market during the first three months of this year, according to the California New Car Dealers Association’s latest report.
EV sales have grown steadily from 2.5 percent of the market in 2013 to 3.6 percent last year, the association said.
Read more at: Climate group sees ‘inevitable’ shift to electric vehicles in Sonoma County | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com

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End of the road for diesel?

David Welch, BLOOMBERG

…diesel will probably be relegated only to a hard-working class of vehicles. While hybrid electric cars can save fuel as effectively as a diesel sedan, and Tesla’s electric cars can offer plenty of zip for motoring enthusiasts, no technology gives the towing power needed for big work trucks like diesel.

It’s easy to imagine diesel will die in America. The troubles that started almost two years ago with the emissions scandal at Volkswagen AG just keep rolling on and on. With General Motors Co. now confronting a class-action lawsuit over 700,000 diesel trucks, there’s growing sense across the auto industry that the days of diesel cars are numbered, at least in the U.S.
GM calls the allegations of emission-test cheating baseless, and the lawsuit stops short of claiming a breach of clean-air regulations. But increasingly, analysts are wondering who will be willing to buy diesel cars and trucks given that many in the industry have been accused of fudging pollution standards. More to the point, how many carmakers will be willing to keep making them?
“This is accelerating the demise,” said Kevin Tynan, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “We were never into them anyway, and with alternatives like hybrids and electric vehicles, there just isn’t much of a reason to sell them.”
GM is just the latest automaker to face a civil lawsuit claiming that its diesel engines use software to meet clean-air rules while the engines pollute at higher levels. The law firm suing GM, Hagens Berman, has also sued Daimler AG, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Volkswagen, which must pay $24.5 billion in government penalties and consumer givebacks for cheating on diesel emissions.
Read more at: GM Suit Digs a Deeper Grave for Diesel – Bloomberg

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Strong surge in solar in county

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County shared in the U.S. solar industry’s boom times last year, with strong job growth reported here, a jump partly attributed to increased customer demand and a rush to take advantage of federal tax credits.
The county ranked 13th for 2016 among the nation’s metropolitan areas based on the number of solar-related jobs, according to a new report by the Solar Foundation of Washington, D.C. Employment in the county’s solar sector grew 44 percent from a year earlier to 3,476 jobs.
Some Northern California communities enjoyed even bigger growth rates.
The San Francisco/Oakland area, the top-ranked metro area in the United States for solar jobs, reported a total of 26,000 such workers last year, an increase of 67 percent from 2015.Sacramento, which ranked sixth, saw its solar jobs grow 99 percent, while San Luis Obispo, ranked 15th, had an increase of 137 percent.
In contrast, the nation’s solar workforce grew by 25 percent last year. That compares with an annual growth rate of about 20 percent for the previous three years.“California is obviously the leading market in terms of solar in the U.S.,” said Andrea Luecke, the foundation’s president and executive director.
Santa Rosa has distinguished itself for encouraging solar by becoming one of only 21 communities in the nation to receive the top-ranked SolSmart Gold designation, Luecke noted. The recognition is part of a U.S. Department of Energy program that is administered by the Solar Foundation.
Read more at: Sonoma County solar industry ranks 13th in nation for job numbers | The Press Democrat

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Sonoma Clean Power adds electric vehicles to its fight to address climate change

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The launch of Sonoma Clean Power in spring of 2014 is widely cited as the single largest action Sonoma County has taken to address climate change locally.
The public agency and the county’s dominant electricity provider is credited with reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through large-scale purchase and delivery of renewable power from non-fossil-fuel burning sources, including geothermal and wind. Additional contracts are expected to add solar and more wind power to the mix next year, ambitious moves that represent the agency’s core mission of sourcing electricity from county- and state-based sources, while helping to stabilize rates.
Now, Sonoma Clean Power is making another huge bet: that it can convince hundreds of Sonoma County residents over the next two months to ditch their gas-guzzling vehicles for more fuel-efficient wheels.
The public agency has launched a new, $2.5 million venture to help people purchase electric vehicles and install at-home charging stations, further advancing efforts to reduce climate change by targeting the largest source of pollution in Sonoma County — tailpipe emissions.
“If just 100,000 cars switched from driving on oil to driving on local renewables, we’d go a long way in achieving our climate change goals. That’s pretty extraordinary,” said Geof Syphers, chief executive officer of Sonoma Clean Power. “The state has some really strong objectives related to reducing emissions, but the state doesn’t really know how to achieve them, so this is our opportunity to experiment with relatively low risk.”
Starting Oct. 27 and through Jan. 5, Sonoma Clean Power will offer its customers $2,500 discounts — on a first-come, first-served basis — to purchase or lease a Nissan Leaf or a BMW i3, two models of electric vehicles on the market. Nissan and BMW have offered additional on-the-spot rebates against the purchase price of the vehicles at Santa Rosa-based Jim Bone Nissan and Hansel BMW.
Nissan is offering a $10,000 immediate rebate on Leaf purchases and up to $11,625 for the lease option, and BMW is offering $10,500 off for purchases and $9,500 off for leasing.
Low-income Sonoma Clean Power customers are eligible for an even greater discount of $5,000. Additional state rebates and federal tax credits are available for the purchase of electric vehicles.
Read more at: Sonoma Clean Power adds electric vehicles to its fight to address climate change | The Press Democrat

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Sonoma County to offer incentives for drivers to switch to electric cars 

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County wants to convince drivers to ditch their gas-guzzling vehicles for more energy-efficient electric cars as part of an ambitious countywide initiative that could offer residents financial incentives this year to make the switch.
Backed by the Board of Supervisors, several programs are underway that county officials hope will boost the number of electric vehicles on the road, and develop the public and private charging network to support them.
The effort would help to reduce greenhouse gases and stave off the impacts of climate change, officials said.
“This is one of those areas where Sonoma County wants to be a leader,” said Supervisor Efren Carrillo, the board chairman.
“We know that electric vehicles are the most effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and in order to get more clean cars on the roads, we have to get them in the hands of those who can benefit the most — middle-class workers.”
The county is planning to offer residents and businesses grants and rebate checks to purchase new cars or help with the installation of charging stations at homes or workplaces.
Read more at: Sonoma County to offer incentives for drivers to switch to electric cars | The Press Democrat

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California extends most ambitious US climate change law 

Alicia Chang, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A decade ago, California vowed to dramatically slash greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.With the nation’s most populous state on pace to meet that target, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday charted a new goal to further cut carbon pollution by extending and expanding the landmark climate change law.
It will “keep California on the move to clean up the environment,” Brown said in a Los Angeles park before signing a pair of bills that survived heavy opposition from the oil industry, business groups and Republicans.
Experts said going forward will be more challenging because the new goal — to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 — is considerably more ambitious and many of the easy solutions have been employed.
“The long and the short of it is that meeting the goal will require sustained regulatory effort across all sectors of the economy,” said Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at the University of California, Los Angeles.
California is on track to meet the 2020 climate goal that called for reducing emissions to 1990 levels by restricting the carbon content of gasoline and diesel fuel, encouraging sales of zero-emission vehicles and imposing a tax on pollution.
The state plans to build on that foundation and ramp up other efforts including increasing renewable electricity use, boosting energy efficiency in existing buildings and putting 1.5 million zero-emissions vehicles on the road, according to the California Air Resources Board, which is in charge of climate policy.
Read more at: California extends most ambitious US climate change law | The Press Democrat

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Windsor approves Vintage Oaks on the Town Green housing project

… Councilman Sam Salmon, the lone dissenting vote, said he was still troubled over the removal of trees and that the original low-income units proposed were dropped.
That was the consensus of the Town Council members Wednesday as they voted 4-1 to approve a revised development plan for the 387-unit Vintage Oaks on the Town Green, the once controversial project planned for the site of the former Windsorland mobile home and trailer park.“This is a great day for Sonoma County,” said Mayor Mark Millan, adding that it will provide new housing choices for both young and old.
“It’s sorely needed,” he said.

It’s a huge complement to the downtown and the new Bell Village center,” Councilwoman Deb Fudge said in reference to the site it will occupy just to the north of the new Oliver’s Market and shopping center.
She and other council members touted the ability residents will have to walk to the nearby station to ride SMART commuter trains, which Fudge said could be in service in Windsor by the summer of 2018, if grant funding comes through to extend the line beyond its current terminus just north of Santa Rosa.
Developers hope to begin building the first half of Vintage Oaks as early as next month and be ready to rent units out by the summer of 2017, according to project manager Peter Stanley, a principal in Santa Rosa-based ArchiLOGIX.
Southern California developer Bob Bisno said he and his partners expect to spend as much as $135 million to build the combination of apartments and townhomes, which will feature rooftop solar panels and a dozen electric vehicle charging stations initially, with potential to add more.
Read more at: Windsor approves Vintage Oaks on the Town Green housing project

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State’s rebate program for green car buyers shifts gears March 29 

Mark Glover, SACRAMENTO BEE
A state program that aims to make clean vehicles more accessible to California drivers will soon implement increased incentives for low- and moderate-income consumers.
At the same time, the program will institute an income cap restricting the eligibility of relatively high-income green car buyers.
The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, administered by the San Diego-based Center for Sustainable Energy for the California Air Resources Board, said rebates for all types of eligible light-duty passenger vehicles will increase by $1,500 across the board, effective March 29.
Current rebates cover a wide range of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles ($1,500), battery electric vehicles ($2,500) and fuel cell electric vehicles ($5,000).
The increased rebates will apply statewide to vehicle purchases or leases.The list of eligible vehicles includes the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, Toyota Mirai, BMW i3, Chevrolet Spark EV, Ford Focus Electric, Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, Toyota RAV4 EV, Chevrolet Volt and the Honda Fit EV.
To qualify for the increased rebates, applicants must have household incomes less than or equal to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For an individual, ARB said the gross annual income limit is $35,640, and for a household of four, it’s $72,900.
ARB noted that, when combined with the $7,500 federal tax credit for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles, individual car savings for low- and moderate-income buyers under the new eligibility requirements will range from $10,500 up to $11,500.
Read more at: State’s rebate program for green car buyers shifts gears March 29 | The Sacramento Bee

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Sonoma County students to build electric vehicles

 Jeremy Hay, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The students from Analy High School’s automotive and electromechanical technologies class trooped from one room into another in Switch Vehicles’ Sebastopol workshop, where a control box for an electrical car was being assembled.

“When you guys see this in here, we are going to build it in class,” their teacher, Sean Fleming, called out. “It’s going to look great on a college application.”

Analy High is one of five Sonoma County schools where students will build electric cars from the chassis up as part of a public-private partnership that hopes to create a flow of sought-after employees and, eventually, to strengthen the local market for alternatively powered vehicles.

Switch Vehicles, an electric vehicle manufacturer that has started the program in 15 high schools and colleges nationally, will train teachers in a curriculum it designed and provide vehicle kits to the schools.

The program brings together Switch with the county’s independent power agency, its office of education and a private local foundation. It is more than a course in assembling parts, said Peter Oliver, co-founder of the company.

“They go a lot more in-depth into the mechanics and components of an electric vehicle. Students write reports, they do homework, they learn Ohm’s Law (a precept governing electricity),” Oliver said.

Read more at: Sonoma County students to build electric vehicles | The Press Democrat

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Report highlights Sonoma County’s growing market for electric vehicles

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sales of EVs in Sonoma County
Sonoma County EV sales by model (Center for Climate Protection.)

Sonoma County is on a roll with electric vehicles, with dealers selling one of the clean-air cars every seven hours this year, according to a new report by the Santa Rosa-based Center for Climate Protection.
The growing market, with Nissan Leafs, Chevrolet Volts and Toyota Prius plug-in hybrids leading the way, has amounted to more than 1,900 electric vehicles purchased in the county since 2010, according to state records.
Those vehicles have offset about 7,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions that would have been produced by traditional fuel-burning cars, said the report, which looked at the landscape of electric vehicles — including hybrids — in Sonoma County.
“That’s pretty impressive,” said Doron Amiran, electric vehicle program manager with the Center for Climate Protection, which released the report late last month.
The center is backing Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to put 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on California roadways by 2025, and Amiran said Sonoma County is well on its way to that goal, accounting for 1.6 percent of California’s EV sales to date.
Read more at: Report highlights Sonoma County’s growing market for electric | The Press Democrat