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Originally published on NRDC Expert Blog.
By Miles Muller, Attorney, Climate & Clean Energy Program

State legislators and Governor Newsom just signed a historic California budget that includes unprecedented levels of investment in clean transportation. The new funding will provide significant support for critical zero-emission vehicle and infrastructure programs, unlocking billions in public health, climate, and jobs benefits for all Californians.

This budget comes as the result of months of significant advocacy by a coalition of more than fifty climate, equity, health, and labor organizations to expand investments in California’s most effective programs for clean air, improved health, environmental justice, and a stable climate. The final budget includes more than $3.5 billion for zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure, including:

  • $1.4 billion for electrifying medium- and heavy-duty vehicles on California roads to clean the air, including 3,000 zero-emission drayage trucks, school buses, and transit buses;
  • $415 million to deploy the necessary charging infrastructure for those medium- and heavy-duty vehicles;
  • $400 million for equity-focused transportation projects like Clean Cars 4 All, which enables low-income Californians to scrap their old car and replace it with a new or used option that is less polluting and more efficient;
  • $500 million for the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) Clean Transportation Program deploying charging infrastructure for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles;
  • $525 million for consumer rebates for new ZEV purchases through the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project; and
  • $250 million for zero-emission manufacturing.

This money is on top of the budget’s $5.4 billion Transportation Infrastructure Plan, which includes $500 million for active transportation in addition to funding for improving the state’s streets, roads, and rails.

Securing an Equitable Clean Transportation Future in CA

Moving forward, the Legislature needs to strengthen the state’s commitment to equity to ensure all Californians have access to clean transportation. Fortunately, the Legislature has an opportunity to do exactly that with two policy bills this year — SB 726 (L. Gonzalez) and AB 1389 (Reyes) — that would codify equity requirements for the CEC’s Clean Transportation Program and require that 50% of those investments go towards the primary benefit of people residing in low-income and disadvantaged communities. The Legislature should advance these bills to ensure even greater investment in California’s equitable clean transportation future.

Thanks in large part to the Charge Ahead California Initiative — established by Senate Bill 1275 in 2014, making it state policy to electrify the transportation sector in a manner that ensures all Californians are able to realize the benefits electric vehicles can provide — California already has a rich portfolio of well-utilized equity-focused programs designed to increase access to zero-emission vehicles and mobility in disadvantaged and low-income communities. These programs are complemented by critical zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicle programs that displace toxic diesel emissions that disproportionately impact low-income and disadvantaged communities that often live near freeways, ports, railyards, warehouses and other facilities.

These programs have done a lot to accelerate electric vehicle adoption in the state, especially in low-income and underserved communities, but there’s still a ways to go to meet the state’s long-term climate, equity, and air quality goals. According to a recent CEC report, the state is currently falling behind on its goal of deploying the 250,000 public and shared charging stations needed to support estimated EV adoption in 2025, and faces a gap of roughly one million chargers from what will be needed to support its 2035 goals. The report concludes that significant and continued state, local, utility, and private funding will be necessary to meet these goals.

California Energy Commission, Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Assessment

The 2021–2022 budget will go a long way in putting the state on a path to achieving its goals, but more still needs to be done going forward to fund critical equity programs and help underserved communities realize the benefits of clean mobility. While advocates had been pushing for $500 million in guaranteed funding for these critical transportation equity programs, only $150 million of the budget’s $400 million package is guaranteed, and the rest will have to be authorized by the Legislature in future years.


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Aptera’s clever new community funding program prioritizes your SEV delivery the more you invest

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Aptera's clever new community funding program prioritizes your SEV delivery the more you invest

One week after sharing details of its Launch Edition Solar EV, Aptera Motors has announced a community funding program called Accelerate Aptera, hoping to raise between $20 and $50 million. By investing a predetermined minimum, reservation holders have a better chance at receiving delivery of one of the 2,000 Launch Edition Apteras planned. Better still, the person who invests the most on the leaderboard (yes there’s a leaderboard) locks in delivery slot #1.

It’s been a newsworthy week for Aptera Motors and solar EV companies in general. With one fellow SEV startup toiling through a bankruptcy filing and another fighting for its life, our hope in a future of EVs powered by the Sun currently rests heavily on Aptera.

Last Friday, the company’s cofounders Steve Fambro and Chris Anthony held a live streamed webinar, where they walked the public through the specifications of Aptera’s unified, preconfigured Launch Edition solar EV.

The startup’s loyal community was up in arms about the lack of DC charging capability, but it took just three days for the cofounders to take to YouTube once again and quickly makes things right. ALL Aptera solar EVs will now come equipped with DC fast charging, including the Launch Edition. Phew.

While most of last week’s Aptera news was exciting, one discouraging aspect was the fact that deliveries of the Launch Editions remain at least a year away and that the startup needs another $50 million in funding to reach its first gate of scaled production.

Well, the guys at Aptera are back with another video, this time explaining the launch of a new competitive community funding campaign called Accelerate Aptera, complete with a leaderboard.

Aptera funding
The Launch Edition Aptera

Aptera’s accelerated funding program starts at $10,000

The company shared details of its new accelerator program in a post to its website this afternoon, which also included a new video from its cofounders you can peep below. First off, Aptera’s team is working through a Series B2 funding round, but says that will take time to secure and finalize.

Aptera has received a $21.9 million grant, but it is all but guaranteed and the process will not be completed until February or March. Furthermore, the grant is a reimbursement, so Aptera must complete eligible purchases (production equipment, machines, etc.) up to $21.9 million with its own money first.

Enter #AccelerateAptera – the company’s latest community funding program intended to put money in the bank and bridge to gap toward prospective grants and series funding rounds. Per the release:

We want to deliver solar mobility to the world as quickly as possible. Our Launch Edition vehicle is only one of many future products we hope to build that will make the world a better place.  Once funded, we expect it will be 12 months until production of our first vehicle commences. Without funding, we anticipate our timelines will continue to be pushed back. Our community has always been our biggest asset and we’re asking our order holders and other supporters to now help us to accelerate our growth.  If we can raise $20-50 million to execute on the first phase of our production plan, it will help tremendously. We expect our use of proceeds to include capital expenditures such as equipment and tooling and assisting in completing the requirements for obtaining the grant.  

Here’s how the accelerated funding program works.

From now through March 26, anyone can invest a minimum of $10,000 in Aptera to join the Launch Edition leaderboard. Investments over $10k qualify you for a $100 coupon (okay?) and a 5% discount on your Aptera solar EV (up to $2,500 and does not include purchase price).

Whoever contributes the highest investment by the end of the funding round will receive the first delivery slot of 2,000 planned Launch Editions. The remaining 1,999 slots will be prioritized down the leaderboard.

Lastly, those reservation holders who already have their hard earned money invested in Aptera will have those amounts added to their leaderboard funding total… as soon as they donate an additional $10,000.

You can join the funding leaderboard by investing here, and can follow the “competition” here. If you still haven’t reserved an Aptera, you can do so here and get $30 off the $100 fee. To learn more about the Accelerate Aptera campaign, see the video below where the cofounders explain it best.

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Norway just greenlit this vertical-axis floating wind turbine

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Norway just greenlit this vertical-axis floating wind turbine

Swedish wind turbine maker SeaTwirl got the go-ahead to test its 1 megawatt (MW) S2X vertical-axis floating offshore prototype in Norway.

Vertical-axis floating wind turbine pilot

In March 2022, Norway’s Ministry of Energy gave approval to SeaTwirl and Norwegian offshore wind test center Marine Energy Test Centre to pilot the vertical-axis floating wind prototype for five years at a former fish farm in Boknafjorden, northeast of Lauplandsholmenoff, 700 meters (2,297 feet) from the coast.

But four groups – the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association, the Norwegian Fishermen’s Association, and two campaign groups – appealed against SeaTwirl’s permit, and so the project was put on ice.

Yesterday, the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate rejected the appeal, so SeaTwirl’s S2X pilot can now proceed, and no further appeals will be considered.

CEO Peter Laurits said:

Our main focus is the commercialization of large turbines, SX, in floating wind farms. The outcome provides freedom to choose and plan the installation of S2x in the way that best supports that goal.

How S2X works

SeaTwirl says that “multiple S2xs can be placed in a dense pattern for increased output.” The company’s reasoning for building vertical (instead of horizontal) axis floating turbines is this:

The simplicity of the design and low center of gravity are the big advantages. All moving parts and electrical systems are easily accessible [and] close to the water’s surface, lowering maintenance costs.

The S2X prototype is 55 meters (180 feet) above sea level, and it’s around 80 meters (262 feet) below sea level. The turbine diameter is 50 meters (164 feet). Its rotor blade height is around 40 meters (131 feet). Its optimal operating depth is 100 meters (328 feet) and deeper.

SeaTwirl isn’t the only company testing vertical-axis wind turbines off the Norwegian coast – earlier this month, aluminum and energy giant Hydro and floating wind specialist World Wide Wind announced that they’re going to test a vertical-axis wind turbine made out of aluminum.

Read more: These companies will build a floating wind turbine out of aluminum


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Audi hints at luxury electric 4×4 to compete with Mercedes Benz and Land Rover

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Audi hints at luxury electric 4x4 to compete with Mercedes Benz and Land Rover

The luxury electric 4×4 you’ve been waiting for is set to emerge in 2027, and no, it’s not the Mercedes Benz G-Class or Land Rover Defender. It’s a new secret project from Audi.

A luxury electric Audi 4×4 coming in 2027

In a first from Audi, the German automaker is showing interest in the luxury 4×4 segment. The secret new electric SUV will feature a top-notch interior with the ability to perform its best on and off the road.

Audi unveiled its new activesphere concept Thursday, a four-door crossover coupe that doubles as a truck. The concept combines a luxury SUV, sports car, and off-roading pickup into one versatile EV.

Although this is a separate concept from the planned electric Audi 4×4, the off-road EV gives us an impression of where the automaker is headed.

In an interview with Autocar, Audi’s head of design, Marc Lichte, hinted at the idea of a new 4×4, saying:

I think there is space [for a rugged SUV in Audi’s lineup]. There is potential because there are only two premium players, and I think there is space for a third one.

Lichte didn’t give up details other than mentioning it will ride on one of Volkswagen’s platforms other than the Audi-Porshce co-developed PPE platform like the activesphere concept.

Since Volkswagen’s next-gen SSP platform designed for all segments has been delayed until at least 2028, there’s a good chance Audi’s new 4×4 will share technology with VW’s recently revived Scout off-road brand of vehicles.

electric-Audi-4x4-2
Audi activesphere concept, a separate project from the 4×4 (source: Audi)

Following Volkswagen’s announcement last year that it would revive the Scout brand for an all-electric lineup and bring rugged SUVs to the United States, reports surfaced VW was considering Canadian parts manufacturer Magna (which also builds the Mercedes Benz G-Class) to help build the vehicles.

The initial plans called for Audi to build Scout models in a new US facility but were later scrapped. According to Autocar, the two brands may still benefit from each other.

Audi is already working with Magna to develop electric vehicle batteries for the Scout brand. With VW reportedly leaning toward having the part supplier build 100,000 Scout EVs, there could be room for an additional 50,000 electric Audi 4×4 models to be built alongside.

Audi is already familiar with electric off-road technology with its beastly RS Q e-tron rally car (and Quattro four-wheel drive tech) and is well known for its premium luxury interior. It seems like a match made in heaven to me.

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