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

As this week is proving, we are once again reeling from the impacts of climate change with a record-breaking heat wave and dozens of expensive and deadly fires exploding throughout the state. Sadly, this is not the end of our fire season or California’s heat waves. Fires will continue to burn, and the climate will continue to get hotter, more expensive, and deadlier for our kids and grandkids.

In order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, we need to electrify our transportation system. According to the California Air Resources Board‘s latest greenhouse gas inventory, transportation makes up over 41% of the state’s greenhouse gas pollution, and cars make up a staggering 29%!

There is no way to solve this problem without changing how we move from point A to point B. At Environment California, we know that means we need smarter housing, better public transportation, safer sidewalks, protected bike lanes and 100% electric vehicles by 2030.

Our state Legislature has the opportunity to put California back on the path of meeting our goals by passing Assembly Bill 326 authored by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi and Senator Ben Allen. This bill will help get more electric vehicles on the road in place of conventional gasoline vehicles, which produce twice as many emissions.

AB 326 will do this by creating a legal framework for “electric vehicle memberships” that will allow more Californians to access EVs through month-to-month memberships. It’s a speedy, low-cost, low-hassle opportunity for people to get into an EV, and that means more people will try one.

This first-of-its-kind legislation will provide an opportunity for all Californians to access EVs without the typical obligations of high-interest loans, predatory lending, or long-term financial responsibilities that are associated with combustion-engine vehicles. Reducing these barriers will help bring EVs to a larger population of Californians.

Recent studies, including one done last year by the Environment California Research & Policy Center, indicate that “range anxiety” is a key reason why people don’t buy an EV. AB 326 will help people get over the anxiety by letting them drive and charge a car for a few months. It’s important to note that studies also indicate that once people drive an EV for a few weeks, the “range anxiety” dissipates.

Another barrier, as the Sierra Club found in a survey, is that EVs are simply not available to purchase. Their survey of more than 900 U.S. dealerships found that “74% did not stock a single EV.”

California is a leader in the EV world, but we still have a long way to go. Solving the 21st-century problem of climate change requires 21st century ideas. This bill is a good step in the right direction and should not be shelved because car dealers are worried about their near monopoly.

AB 326 removes long-standing barriers to alternative fuel vehicles and will help California achieve our goals of cleaner air and lower carbon outputs. This legislation is the innovative approach the state has been seeking to get more Californians driving an electric vehicle and it’s needed now more than ever.

It is a win-win for California.

Dan Jacobson is the state director for Environment California, a nonprofit that is part of a network of 29 state environmental groups.

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