VCREA is in the FAST LANE When it Comes to Electric Vehicle Efforts

by Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance (VCREA)

Over the past year and a half, electric vehicles (EV) have been getting plenty of charge in Ventura County. To jumpstart EV efforts, Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance (VCREA) received a grant award as part of the California Energy Commission’s EV Ready Communities Challenge Phase I – Blueprint Development. The grant aimed to accelerate and support EV and charging infrastructure deployment at local and regional levels. To develop the Blueprint, VCREA staff partnered with Community Environmental Council – a regional non-profit that has worked to support EV adoption and infrastructure development for nearly a decade. VCREA also hosted a CivicSpark Fellow for the duration of the project, who focused on bilingual EV outreach. 

While working on the Blueprint, VCREA quickly learned that the community was clamoring for information on EVs. VCREA joined the Electric Drive 805 coalition, which is dedicated to achieving a rapid, equitable transition to EVs. VCREA also joined forces with EV Advocates of Ventura County to host five EV Lunch and Learns throughout the County. Each Lunch and Learn provided free pizza, an EV 101-type presentation, and an opportunity to ask questions to actual EV owners. More than 250 community members and local government staff attended the five events and used the opportunity to ask questions mostly focused on the available rebates and incentives, and charging infrastructure.

To continue the EV buzz and Blueprint outreach, VCREA and the County of Ventura held the first ever Ventura EV Ride and Drive during September’s National Drive Electric Week. The EV Ride and Drive took place at the County Government Center, complete with more than 50 vehicles from local dealers and car owners. The event attracted 1000 attendees, with more than 150 community members test driving a variety of EVs. The County’s five-member Board of Supervisors even joined in the fun by kicking off the event with their own test drives. During the Ride and Drive event, the community was able to compare different EV makes and models, and learn from industry experts. Local bike shops brought e-bikes to test ride and there was an electric school bus that drove participants around the Government Center. The EV Lunch and Learns and the Ride and Drive supercharged the community’s enthusiasm for EVs by highlighting the clean-air benefits, cost-savings, and fun provided by driving an EV. In fact, according to California Department of Motor Vehicle statistics, EV ownership in Ventura County increased approximately 40 percent from 2018 to 2019.

In developing the Blueprint, VCREA conducted additional outreach on the benefits of EVs with community stakeholders and local government staff. Outreach activities included EV-related surveys to businesses and multifamily housing residents, tabling events, and listening sessions with underserved community members to help inform Blueprint development. All outreach efforts were bilingual to help ensure EVs and other clean mobility options are more accessible to our diverse communities. Countywide data was collected for the region’s largest multifamily housing, employers, and public destinations to identify gaps in charging infrastructure and an interactive, online GIS tool was created to map and prioritize potential locations for new EV charging. In late 2019, VCREA and the Community Environmental Council finalized the Ventura County EV Ready Blueprint and associated EV accelerator plans for the Port of Hueneme and cities of Ventura and Oxnard to spur rapid adoption of EVs in the communities that are disproportionately burdened with sources of pollution and climate change impacts. 

To keep EV efforts on the fast track, VCREA and the County of Ventura are hoping to host another EV Ride and Drive Event during this year’s National Drive Electric Week. VCREA is working with the County, Clean Power Alliance, Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, and Community Environmental Council to bring California Electric Vehicle Incentive Program (CALeVIP) funding to the region in 2021. If the region is selected for a CALeVIP project, several million dollars will be invested in the region to build new EV charging infrastructure. VCREA is hoping to create an EV Coach as a resource for the community and is also advocating for EV-related workforce training and development.