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Essay Samples > Research > Vehicles in Chicago
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Vehicles in Chicago

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Challenges facing Increased Plug in Electric Vehicles in Chicago

The growing concerns about the impact of automotive vehicles on the urban environment have led to increases in numbers of local- and state-level initiatives on the introduction of hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles (hereinafter referred to as the PEVs) in public and private use. The main advantage of these models lies in their combining of innovative production techniques with environment-friendly emission regime, which widely earned them a moniker of zero-emission vehicles (the ZEVs; Governor’s Interagency Working Group on Zero-Emission Vehicles 2012, 4). This research paper shall deal with both challenges and strategies of more active introduction of the PEVs by local authorities in the Los Angeles (LA) Area. The perspective to be upheld is that the bold allocation of local governments’ funds to the needs of the PEVs industry would be a necessary course of action in present circumstances. In addition, a more specific narrative of the challenges faced by local authorities in exercising their functions in this field would allow for clearer understanding of the risks to be tackled.

In order to provide a coherent summary of the situation, one needs to examine the present state of the PEV industry and transportation in California, with a focus on the local authorities’ role in their development. Proceeding from the data by California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative (2012b), it is possible to make a conclusion that California’s authorities place great emphasis on the PEV development and provision. For instance, as early as 2010, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) largely streamlined the permitting process for electric vehicles, with a view to increasing their attractiveness to car buyers (Office of the City of Los Angeles Mayor 2010, 2). The local authorities of San Francisco, San Diego and Oakland were even keener to put forward the goals of ‘green car revolution’, as their joint working plan on transforming the Bay Area into the most EV-friendly region of the USA had been formulated as early as November 2008 (Berman 2010). The reasons cited for this decision included both the need to drastically decrease the local cities’ pollution levels and assist the population in cutting their expenditures on gasoline-consuming car models (Berman 2010).

The programs implemented by city authorities on this issue seem to be largely identical in their scope and focus. Whereas the LADWP has played the role of a trailblazer in developing the incentive system for the PEV buyers, its example has been emulated by such local authorities as Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUP), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE), and Southern California Edison (SCE). All of them now provide their customers with an option of selecting the specific EV electricity rate, for the use with their PEV facility. This option effectively lowers the customer’s electricity costs when utilizing the EV car model (California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative 2012a, 8). In particular, the LADWP’s 2.5 cents EV discount per 1 kW/h serves as an incentive for the EV owners to use their cars in the night-time, simultaneously saving the electric grid capacities and enabling the efficient use of wind turbine energy at day(Office of the City of Los Angeles Mayor 2010, 2).

At the state level, the PEV promotion has been taken up by the Governor’s Office.  In March 2012, Governor Brown signed Executive Order B-16-2012, cementing a commitment by California state authorities to provide all major cities with the PEV electric grid by 2015, as well as to securing the number target of 2.5 million EVs for the state of California by 2025 (California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative 2012b, 8). According to the framework set by this Executive Order, such policy instruments as streamlined permitting, increased public and private investment, and direct state purchases of the EV vehicles will be used to make the PEV industry fully competitive with its conventional model rivals (Governor’s Interagency Working Group on Zero-Emission Vehicles 2012, 3). Furthermore, consumer awareness expansion would be supported by both state-financed research programs and consumer outreach campaign jointly promoted by the state government and the manufacturers (13).

Thus, support levels offered by the state and local authorities to the EVs’ industry appear to be both adequate and oriented towards the long-term perspective. Nevertheless, it is understandable that significant challenges might prevent the full-scale implementation of the aforementioned policy goals.

The high permit fees remain the problem plaguing the prospective PEV customers. In particular, the City of Los Angeles still charges a relatively high permit fee of $97.20, which is lower than that of San Francisco ($164.20) but higher than the level set in Mountain View and Yorba Linda jurisdictions ($56.51 and $62.25, respectively; California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative 2012a, 21). However, this pales in comparison with the forbidding pay rates levied by local authorities of Malibu ($624.00) and Riverside County ($260.71), which would make the costs of running a PEV unbearable for some of the local residents (21).

Similarly, the lack of necessary infrastructure may prevent the growth and development of a PEV transportation network. For instance, in Los Angeles the need for multi-unit dwelling (MUDs) charger installations is hardly addressed by local authorities, as 22% of the city’s denizens reside in these building complexes that are almost deprived of an opportunity to make use of an EV electric grid due to space and electrical capacity constraints (Association of Bay Area Governments 2011, 35-36). Such situation will become more unbearable if due measures are not taken in the short course of time. Similarly, the lack of garages in some areas of Los Angeles presents a challenge for providing electric facilities to the PEV drivers there (44).

The operating costs for the PEVs still present a challenge to the technology’s users. While the Los Angeles Area authorities have instituted a number of incentive packages for this category of drivers, in particular, focusing on EVSE charging systems’ offerings (Association of Bay Area Governments 2011, 60), the eligibility conditions make these programs sometimes expensive for their end users, contributing to the lack of customer demand. The overcoming of this problem requires a more focused approach thereto.

Measures government should take to prepare customers for PEV without any problems

Infrastructure Improvement

Although the PEV’s have already made an in road in the automobile industry, for the initiative to be fully successful and its environmental impact to be of significance, more investment in infrastructure is required. The government should engage the private sector into this initiative in order to enhance the possibility of beating the 2015 target of ensuring that PEV’s become the major automobile on the road rather than vehicles that use gasoline.

The current charging stations are rather few and cannot cater effectively for all the consumers. Its also important for more innovations that will ensure the charging time is minimal since the thirty minutes at stations will translate to logjams hence translating to time waste. In addressing this challenge, the government should consider offering incentive to the charger producing companies so that they may install Level 2 charges in car owner’s garages (Los Angeles Office of the Mayor 2012,2).

The government should increase its investments in the energy sector and more specifically in electricity supply and distribution. The introduction of PEV’s in the markets is a factor that will increase pressure on electricity. Therefore, the success of the program will be much dependent on the ability of the electricity producing sector to support others sectors of the economy as well as the PEV’s adequately.

Affordability

Among the major challenge facing the use of PEV’s is associated with the numerous costs that have to be incurred in terms of maintenance of the stations, the technological aspect of the car, its related costs and the permit fee that is relatively high are factors that discourage and slows down the pace at which PEV’s penetrate into the market (the ZEVs; Governor’s Interagency Working Group on Zero-Emission Vehicles 2012, 4). In order to tackle these challenges, the government should consider factors such as offering incentives to the automobile companies through reduction of sustainability tax. This will reduce the overall costs incurred in production of the PEV’s and consequently make the vehicles affordable to the consumers.

Most products that are environmental friendly in America are expensive. This is due to the fact that most companies maybe perceive products that reduce pollution to be value added (Wernau, 2011). Hence, they tend to charge higher rates when compared to the conventional one’s in the market. The government has to step in and work with all the stakeholders to ensure the PEV’s are affordable to the common citizens if the initiative is to impact as expected and for the product to penetrate the markets as project by 2015.

Battery Use

The challenge posed by the battery life is a factor that concerns not only the automobile producers but also the government and the customers. The effects of using PEV’s in urban areas will impact positively on the environment though limiting the distance the vehicle is able to cover. The availability of vehicles in the market that can operate as PEV’s and also on gasoline is a short term solution that will guarantee customer’s satisfaction in terms of movement but falls short of the main objective of PEV’s in the market. In addressing this challenge, the state government should consider working with the federal government in putting up charging stations at different locations including on major roads that link states (Los Angeles Office of the Mayor 2012,1). This will make the automobile to be more convenient for use not only in urban areas. In addition, it will also promote reduction of carbon emission in the environment al large.

PEV’s uses newer versions of batteries that chemically use Li-lon. Unlike most vehicles that use batteries made using lead a substance that is considered to have a far reaching undesired effect on the environment, the PEV’s batteries are made using expensive battery chemistry when compared to those that use lead. The government must ensure there are adequate measures and policies that are in place to safeguard the environment and also discourage deposition of depleted batteries in the landfills. This therefore call for battery recycling plants to be established or the existing ones to be upgraded to capacities that can adequately recycle the depleted batteries.

Conclusion

The noble cause of reducing environment pollution in different fronts is an initiative that should not be perceived to be government oriented rather it should be the responsibility of every citizen.  It’s therefore necessary for different campaigns to be initiated in order to enlighten the citizens on the benefits of reducing carbon levels in the environment. Acceptance and full embrace by the citizens on products such as PEV will translated to a decline in environmental disasters such as storms which are attributed to increasing global warming.

One of the key features that is going to drive future environmental sustainability is in the shift of products that we use in our day to day activities. It’s against this backdrop that the government should be in the forefront to champion and motivate environment friendly investments and also work with such, to ensure the products are affordable. This coupled with campaigns will help in changing consumer preferences from convectional products such as gasoline vehicles to PEV’s.

Though, the country’s energy sector may have the capability to sustain different sectors of the economy including modern inventions in the automobile industry as per its current production ability and economic demand, its necessary to make a shift from use of energy sources such as coal in production of electricity. This is due to the fact that even if PEV’s are fully embraced and the charging stations use power generated from unclean energy sources, the effort will be in futility since coal is among the major polluters of the environment.

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