accelerating california’s transition to zero emission vehicles

Practicum Project | 2021

Accelerating California’s Transition to Zero Emission Vehicles

Transportation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in California. Transportation, including by passenger vehicles, also contributes to unhealthy levels of harmful air pollution such as smog and particulate matter. But the environmental impacts of traffic emissions are unequally distributed, posing a unique environmental justice challenge. Low income communities and communities of color are more likely to be located next to freeways with heavy traffic. As a result, members of these communities are more likely to to suffer from health conditions caused by air pollution, including higher risks of asthma, cancer and heart attacks. In 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed an order committing California to carbon neutrality by 2045. However, the relatively long, 10–15 year average lifetime of high-polluting passenger vehicles poses a challenge to meeting such goals in a timely manner. Older polluting vehicles need to be replaced with zero-emission vehicles at faster rates for California to reach its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, and to reduce impacts to low income communities from their emissions.

This project aims to accelerate the replacement of older, greenhouse gas emitting vehicles with zero emission vehicles in California to control carbon emissions and accomplish carbon neutrality. This project is also dedicated to identifying the location of individual older internal combustion vehicles based on socioeconomic demographic factors and analyze potential personal financial benefit and costs associated with switching to alternative zero emission vehicles. The resulting analysis is important for policymakers to inform replacement programs in the areas that need them the most. With the aid of these programs, California would be closer to meeting its emissions targets while reducing traffic-related air pollution exposure for vulnerable communities. The results of this project have broad applications for public health and environmental justice, due to the locations of freeway systems and resulting emissions.

Client: The Union of Concerned Scientists

Student Team: Anna Schneider, Aria Soeprono, Michelle Yep, Vivian Kha and William Shao

Advisor: Pablo Saide Peralta