Electric vehicles at charging station
Electric vehicles lined up at an Ocean Beach charging station. Photo by Chris Jennewein

A group of local leaders announced the launch of Accelerate to Zero Emissions – a regional collaborative dedicated to promoting clean transportation.

The coalition – consisting of 13 public, private and nonprofit organizations, including the region’s largest cities – aims to make it easier for local residents and businesses to transition to electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

The group – A2Z for short – aims to curb air pollution and reduce the effects of climate change.

“We can’t combat the climate crisis alone – it’s collaborative partnerships like this that will help us reach our city’s climate action goals faster and deliver crucial air quality improvements for our communities,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

At a news conference at the San Diego County Administration Center, leaders released the results of a newly completed gap analysis, which identifies barriers to widespread adoption of zero-emission vehicles, particularly in underserved and marginalized communities.

The report also quantifies how many EV chargers and hydrogen fueling stations are needed for the region to meet its share of California’s clean transportation goal.

The statewide goal is to have 8 million ZEVs on the road by 2030. The San Diego region’s share of that goal is 771,000.

As of last year, the region had met less than 10% of that goal, with 69,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road.

To keep pace with the region’s targeted level of growth, around 155,000 EV chargers and a few dozen hydrogen fueling stations are needed.

The region’s progress on that front is even worse, at less than 5% of the goal. As of 2020, there were 6,700 chargers in the region and one hydrogen fueling station.

“We have a long way to go to clean up the transportation sector — the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California and in our region and a very significant source of air pollution,” said Estela de Llanos, San Diego Gas & Electric’s vice president of energy procurement and sustainability. “The gaps in our fueling infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles are so large, no single entity can solve the problem on its own. Regional collaboration is critical.”

The gap analysis found multiple overlapping clean transportation efforts and recommends coordination to make a bigger impact.

Aside from SDG&E and San Diego, other core members of A2Z are the County of San Diego, the county Air Pollution Control District and San Diego Association of Governments, as well as the cities of Carlsbad, Chula Vista, Escondido, Santee and Cleantech San Diego, Grid Alternatives, MAAC, and the University of San Diego’s Energy Policy Initiatives Center.

Important to the coalition is reaching emission goals while ensuring that residents of all income levels have access to zero-emission vehicles and share in their benefits.

Supervisor Nora Vargas, vice chair of the County Board of Supervisors and chair of the Air Pollution Control District board, was pleased by the collaborative’s emphasis on equity and environmental justice, “something we’ve been fighting for in District 1.”

“Some of our communities are among the most impacted and are often located along heavily traveled transportation corridors,” she said. “As a result, these communities suffer from higher levels of asthma and other negative impacts. Reducing transportation-related pollution will help improve public health so we can continue to build healthier and stronger communities.”

Gloria added that the campaign will benefit the economy as well.

“This important commitment to transforming our transportation sector will create good local jobs and protect our quality of life for the next generation and beyond,” he said.