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Supervisor Roberts: Bullish On Electric Car Future In California

San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts has watched the electric vehicle evolve over the years. He drove the E-V One, the first electric car developed by General Motors and nearly every electric car developed since then. Call it a perk of being a member of the California Air Resources Board since 1995.

He recently joined KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson to talk about electric vehicles as Roberts drove the new Chevy Bolt, which boasts a range of 234 miles per charge.

Q: What do you think of this model compared to the EV One?

A: These cars are not sluggish. They can move. And it doesn’t have to be a huge major expense to have something where you get good range and good acceleration and comfort. This is the first time I’ve driven the Bolt, and it’s kinda nice, too.

Q: Where do you think the big benefit is for the region when you talk about adding more of these vehicles to the road?

A: There are a lot of beneficial impacts, but air quality is right at the top of that list. And I mean air quality in every sense of the word. I think today, we focus a lot on greenhouse gas, but air pollution is still out there, and we’re doing everything possible to reduce that. We’re getting near the limits of what you can do to cars. Because of the incredible improvements over the last couple of decades, more than that, but what now we’re seeing the greenhouse gas impacts on climate worldwide. And this is, transportation, is one of the most significant components of that.

Q: What do you think has been the big obstacle for consumers?

A: Today, having cars like this, it's like having a full tank of gas. You’re not driving around and thinking, 'Gee I’ve got about an eighth of a tank here,' which the range would’ve been in the past. Today, we’re seeing these vehicles well over 200 miles on a charge, and I think that takes away, I think the single biggest obstacle for most people. The other thing we’re looking at is what about recharging? And we’re deploying charging stations literally all over the county now. We’re working hand-in-hand with SDG&E and others to make sure that people can feel comfortable.

Photo by Erik Anderson

San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts drives a Chevy Bolt and talks about electric cars on Feb. 6, 2018.

Q: So the governor kind of upped the game again recently. He wants to see 1.5 million by 2025 — 1.5 million electric vehicles or zero-emission vehicles on the road. And then he said a week or so ago that five years later he wants to have 3.5 million of those vehicles on the road. Do you see that as being realistic?

A: I think it’s going to happen. A lot of people who probably haven’t thought about it, as they become acquainted, when they see their neighbors are driving on electric power, and the ease with which you can recharge those. If you have a house you can easily — in your own garage — be recharging. I’ve found when I was driving and demonstrating all-electric vehicles, that handiness of being able to just charge at home was really a nice feature. I think we’ll see it. You know a lot of people want to do it because of the environmental issues, and I think that’s laudable. For other people, it’s going to be the convenience and not having to stop at a gas station, that’s a pretty nice feeling.

Q: One of the advantages we have, being in Southern California, is the fact that the temperature is pretty mild and that helps with the batteries.

A: It does. Except in the summertime, the air conditioning is a pretty good load.

Q: Is that enough of a technological barrier to keep electric vehicles from reaching outside of the state?

A: The batteries have changed dramatically and the ranges. Even in a cold climate, where you’re going to have the heater on and the defrosters and any of the other electrical needs. I think we’re going to increasingly see the barriers to purchase just disappear.

A long-time member of the California Air Resources Board considers the future of the electric vehicles in California.

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Photo of Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

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