First, we must expand access to EV chargers throughout our communities. Charging stations need to be easy to find and access. The most logical place to start is at home. Updating housing codes will ensure that drivers have a convenient and cost-effective place to charge their cars.
The focus must include rental housing as well. Just as legislators would never think of allowing apartments to be built without power outlets or plumbing, they should be taking steps to require that all new construction of multifamily buildings includes EV-charging capability. One study showed that it would cost builders in California only an additional 0.03 percent to ensure charging access for every new condo or apartment with parking.
Existing apartments with parking also must be modified to include EV charging stations. This is not only necessary for renters now; it will help landlords as properties with charging access become more important to an increasing number of EV-driving renters.
And businesses — from grocery stores to hotels to shopping malls — should act now to ensure access to high-quality, low-cost EV chargers. Policymakers can incentivize such initiatives, creating a win for both customers and the environment.
Second, state lawmakers should ensure that there is a plan for electric vehicle batteries that have served their purpose. The metal needed to manufacture EV batteries does have an environmental impact. We must be mindful stewards of these resources.
In California, I introduced Senate Bill 615 to require battery or vehicle manufacturers to reuse old batteries whenever possible, and if it is not possible, to ensure that the batteries are properly recycled. We should prioritize squeezing every bit of life out of a car battery, even if that means repurposing it for a different use.
Some critics of EVs point to the environmental, logistical and moral challenges related to aspects of the extraction, distribution and end use of EV battery component parts. We owe it to our environment and everyone involved with the extraction system to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to recover the reusable component parts of EV batteries and use them in powering the next generation of EVs.
Finally, I urge state legislators to listen to and learn from one another. And I don’t just mean colleagues in one’s own state. There is a wealth of knowledge and innovation happening around the nation. Borrow ideas from other states that could benefit your constituents. Share your ideas that might work elsewhere.
I co-chair the NewDEAL Forum’s Climate Policy Group, which brings together state and local elected officials across the country, along with experts, who are working on pressing issues. We have shared how states are working to take full advantage of the federal support for electric vehicles that is part of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Examples include stackable tax credits for EV purchases in Colorado, a transition to clean school buses in Michigan, and Virginia’s requirement for the state to consider the cost of a vehicle over its lifetime when making purchases.
I support an “all of the above” strategy to combat climate change, and I am proud of much of the work we have done in California. But there is much more to be done. With record federal investments in clean energy coming from the Biden administration, now is the time to do everything we can to bring about positive change.
These ideas are a starting point. They are practical steps that state policymakers in red, blue and purple states can make to ensure that the planet is better off tomorrow. Electric vehicles will play a key part of that future, and we must act now to ensure that this transition is a success story for our economy and our environment.
California state Sen. Ben Allen represents the Westside, Hollywood, South Bay and Santa Monica Mountains communities of Los Angeles County. He chairs the Senate's Environmental Quality Committee and co-chairs the Legislature's Environmental Caucus.