SCE chooses Visalia and Porterville unified school sites among five of their Charge-Ready Transport stations for electric vehicles
CALIFORNIA – Tulare County is known all too well for its bad air quality. But incremental changes are happening thanks in part to Southern California Edison.
The utility company is beginning construction on the first five sites of the $356 million Charge-Ready Transport program, which helps SCE’s nonresidential customers with the cost of installing charging infrastructure for medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles (EV).
The five Charge-Ready Transport locations are Visalia Unified School District in Visalia, Antelope Valley Schools Transportation Agency in Lancaster, Pleasant View Elementary School in Porterville and two sites for Porterville Transit in Porterville.
“These five sites will support over 80 new electric school and transit buses in a region with notoriously bad air quality,” Justin Bardin, SCE program manager for Charge-Ready Transport said “These sites are particularly exciting because they are not small pilots, but, rather, significant projects that will propel these organizations toward a clean transportation future.”
Over the next five years, Charge-Ready Transport aims to add charging stations at a minimum of 870 commercial sites within SCE’s 50,000-square mile service area, or enough infrastructure to support at least 8,490 industrial EVs.
Although the five sites are for school and transit bus fleets, the program is designed to serve electric delivery trucks and vans, yard haulers and big rigs as well as industrial equipment like forklifts. The transit and school bus sites are eligible for rebates to help with the purchase of charging stations once the infrastructure is installed.
Getting construction going on these sites during a pandemic has presented some challenges that have required creative approaches at various stages of planning and design.
“We don’t hold on-site meetings with customers” because of COVID-19 restrictions, said Simon Horton, SCE senior project manager. “And only having a limited number of construction personnel on the site at any one time adds a layer of complexity that we’ve never dealt with before.”
One big challenge was scheduling site inspections.
“For construction inspections, we would usually have city inspectors show up and get signoff at various stages of construction,” Horton said. “As a workaround, we used drive-by inspections and Facetime to get virtual approval rather than in-person.”
Because they were so successful in Charge-Ready Transport projects, Facetime inspections have now become COVID-19 standard practice for some cities. Review and approval of design work has also been moved from in-person to virtual meetings. “The great thing is that as long as we’re following CDC guidelines for distancing, we’re able to keep a lot of people employed during this time that would otherwise be sitting idle,” Horton said.
Charge-Ready Transport was designed with Southern California in mind, where the goods movement industry plays an important role in the economy, but is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, said Carter Prescott, principal manager of operations for SCE’s eMobility team.
“In order to achieve our state’s climate goals, we believe that 75% of the state’s vehicles need to be electric by 2045. That includes 67% of medium-duty vehicles and 38% of heavy-duty vehicles,” Prescott said, citing figures from SCE’s recently released Pathway 2045, the company’s analysis of steps that California must take to meet the 2045 goals to clean our electricity grid and reach carbon neutrality.
“Investing in electric transportation is not only good for the environment,” Prescott said. “It also creates jobs, which will help significantly with economic recovery from COVID-19, and makes more efficient use of the grid, which will reduce rates for all customers. That’s a win-win-win for all of us.”
Construction for medium- and heavy-duty charging station begins as SCE continues to install EV charging for passenger vehicles through its light-duty Charge-Ready Pilot, which is funding a current project to add more than 100 chargers in the Pomona Fairplex parking lot.
SCE also recently collaborated with other utilities on the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative, a study that proposes a conceptual plan for building electric charging sites for delivery trucks and long-haul big rigs from the Canadian to the Mexican border along the Interstate 5 and adjoining highways.