EV Adoption, Climate Week - Katie Sloan, Southern Cal Edison
Do you drive an electric vehicle? Are you thinking about buying electric vehicle? What's holding you back? Are you concerned about where and how often to charge it? As of July Twenty nineteen, there are about one point three million electric vehicles on the road, the United States and about five hundred of them are in California but that is a fraction of the over two, hundred, Eighty, seven, million total vehicles on US roads more and more people are buying electric vehicles and almost every automaker now has at least one and most are coming out with a full line over the next few years. But it's not enough. Transportation is responsible for about a third of carbon emissions in the United States. So it's a huge priority to combat climate change. California is leading the way with the most in the country and the most charging stations and the most financial incentives and regulations that support electric vehicle adoption as well. And yet, adoption is nowhere near where we needed to be to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles as any of you who are regular listeners of green connections radio. No I am an unabashed fan of electric vehicles because I led the communications and Co lead the sales and marketing of Chrysler's electric car division. So this is one of my favorite topics. I think electric vehicles are very cool. But how do we increase adoption today? We're going to find out from under the tough women on the front lines of that effort. Welcomed green connections radio bring you insights and tips from remarkably innovative women about corporate responsibility. Energy and sustainability. Related. Issues I'm John. Michaelson. Inauguration leadership technologies, end careers, always bringing a new perspective find us anywhere. You like to listen to podcasts on green connections, radio, DOT, com, and through my Forbes blog as well and please pass it onto your friends. If you're struggling with your own career let us know via twitter or linked in or the contact US page on our website, and we'll help you with contacts, resources, strategies, ideas, and tips to save you time and money as you grow your career. Here are some more facts to get started. Drivers Ju eighty percent of their charging. That's eight zero percent of they're charging at home. They're over twenty, two, thousand charging stations on over sixty six thousand chargers across the United States and counting with more being installed. Day. The new electric vehicles have a healthy amount of battery range some as much as three hundred and fifty miles as I recall and the cars frankly are very, very cool. I was at the DC auto show recently took a ride with a race car driver in electric Volvo sports car that was way. Cool. There are electric and Hybrid Suv Sedan Sports, cars, et CETERA. So what is holding it up? I'd like you to meet a woman who we hope can answer some of these questions Katie. Sloan is the director of e mobility at Southern California Edison. I met Katie few months ago at an electric, drive transportation, Association Forum and I. Knew I had to have you meet her Katie has been at southern California Edison for about seventeen years. If I read that right in her linked in profile ended knee-deep in vehicles she earned her degrees in economics, which is an interesting angle to approach this from both at her graduate undergraduate and master's degrees from New Mexico State University. Welcome to green, connections radio, Katie, and thank you so much for joining us. Thank you. John I'm excited to be here. Oh, you're welcome. You're welcome. So you focus on removing the barriers to electric vehicle adoption, which assumes there's a big market for these vehicles but since most of us are not owners, what's Your pitch to own one. That's a great question to start with and I would say that electric vehicles are funded Dr dot is the number. One reason that people should be thinking about purchasing them love to share a little story about my own personal experience, and that is that My husband has always driven really large SUV's and trucks his whole life, and when we went car shopping a few years ago and we started looking at electric vehicles. I have to say that he was like probably the majority of folks saying that he was not very excited about purchasing an electric vehicle so much so that when we went to test. Drive one of the cars he refused to sit in the front seat and actually sat in the back with his arms folded during the test drive we ended up getting an electric vehicle which I was super super happy about fast forward a year later, and my husband was driving the electric vehicle around downtown Los Angeles and he came home and he said Oh my gosh, I have something. So exciting to tell you I was at a stop light and there was a really big muscle car next to me and they started rubbing their engine and as soon as that late turned green, put my foot on the accelerator and I totally smoked. I love our. Car. That's cute. So he became a convert by smoking out the other guys car he did and I think the more that people have the opportunity to drive an electric vehicle see that it's fun and also really see that it can fit into their lifestyle and that they get to. The gas station and be able to fuel their vehicle at home or at work or places are already going and they don't have to go out of their way to get fuel I. Think more and more people are going to be just as excited as my as my husband Oh cool. Okay. Great I love that. That's a great pitch. So you're trying to increase adoption. What do you see is the single largest success factor in adopting vehicles when people say besides your husband saying I smoked out the guy next to me what you see is the single thing or things that that help that get people over the top to actually buy one is it vehicle choices at battery range? Financial incentives what do you see is the key driver there really are a few different drivers and I think of it in in a few ways. One really is that availability of vehicles for people to choose from to start with we know that automakers have announced between forty to fifty new electric vehicle models coming online in the next few years and having sports, utility vehicles, smaller cars, trucks that are at price points that people are used to paying will really. Be One of the main accelerators and drivers to the transformation that US avian start looking to get to and I think that lent then leads into once you have the vehicle, how are you using it and then not really gets to infrastructure and the charging station availability today people are used to knowing where gas stations are that no matter where they go they'll be able to have fuel and to the extent that we can have ev charging just as ubiquitous. As gas stations are that will really help with that second hurdle. So I think we're at the precipice ranging anxiety was was a large barrier for quite a few years but I think with having one, hundred, two, hundred, three, hundred miles available. We are moving away from range anxiety and having more experience Zayed's, and that means when chargers are available making sure that people know how to use them and that it's a seamless easy experience and not something that they have. To think about every single time there charging their car. Oh, that's interesting on us to collaborate with a early stage software company that was developing an APP that would tell people wear on the route they were traveling. They could charge whether the those which stations have the chargers that they need. Because, as you know obviously better than anyone else all charters are not created equal and how much it would cost and whether they would be open when they got there. which is kind of addressing, which sounds like is addressing what you're talking about yes, and I've seen. Similar style APPs there's one that moves away from showing the exact type of connector and the technical term, and they've changed it into a color coded scheme so that you can put in your car vehicle model and then it'll say, okay on this map, there's red green and blue chargers you can use green and blue charters and it makes it just a lot easier. So I think the more that these types of You know software solutions are available to. It helps to reduce that experiencing. To get away from the nomenclature of. Or somebody like that. Right you have said the goal of southern California Edison's is to put seven million vs on the road by twenty thirty. That's only ten years away. How do you get from one point three million to seven million or even from five hundred, thousand in California to a million in California how does that? How do you do that? It really takes all of the industry players being focused and aligned and making sure that we're moving quickly towards this goal, we know that the state of California will not meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets unless we significantly decarbonised transportation sector and moving towards electric vehicles is the only way to do that. So rather than continuing to pilot new programs we. Need to go to scale as soon as possible every day that someone is purchasing an internal combustion. Engine vehicle is another ten to twelve years of that vehicle being on the road So we need to look at this through the lens of it's not just one thing, but it's multiple things before I worked on electric vehicles I worked in the renewable space and I think there's a lot of lessons to learn on how technologies like wind and solar went from early staged too late stage to scale, and it wasn't just one thing it was a multitude of factors. It was the federal investment tax credits it was state renewable portfolio standards. It was reduction in cost due to technology. It was also a rate programs like net energy metering in addition to new business models like being able to lease solar panels on your roof top rather than always having to own. So I think we need to look at all of those solutions in conjunction in order to make this see change happen. But aligning all the players is easier said than done to say the least right so how do you get all of them to be forgive the Pun driving in the same direction with you? I will say that I, I've been in the energy industry for a while and I have never seen as much alignment on topic as there is with electric vehicles at least from a high level objective perspective. So I think it really takes focusing on the end goal and making sure that we don't Kabul amongst ourselves with things that are around the edges when we all wanted to get to the main direction and I think that also means that we're bringing each other along that we continue to collaborate and we use organizations that exist for alliances and you mentioned the the EDTA earlier and we can use those groups that already exist to make sure that we're aligned and and moving forward. That's encouraging. So competitors like Vigo or charged point and electrify America org collaborating I would say that In, at least our regulatory structures in California, we have the California Public Utilities Commission, they sometimes do file comments together with other parties, and even if they aren't filing comments together, they are supporting policies that support utility infrastructure programs, for example, and they also not just at the California Public Utilities Commission they also work on legislative fronts to help make sure that we're getting funding for electric vehicle rebates at the levels they need to be so thank you for that perfect segue because federal regulations shall we say you're not exactly moving in the direction of favorably to electric vehicles these days And depending upon the results of the twenty twenty presidential election. We don't know if for when that might change. So I know the California is much more welcoming to this and new have Gavin newsom doing law and I'm sure we have a million people in common out there in this work especially. But how do you finesse the cuts in the rebates and the the cancelling of incentives or letting them expire and you know having to fight what's going on in Washington DC on the regulatory front. Rate. I think that's a very important question to ask I think we should take a step back and recognize that it's not just the federal incentives that are driving what the automakers are doing. If you look at their plans with the forty to fifty new models that are coming out in the next few years, those aren't plans that can be retracted and changed on a dime and automakers are making electric vehicles not just because of what is happening in the state of California but in large part environmental regulations in Europe and China, and we're seeing that those are not backing down at any point. So I think that the federal incentives are. Important. We should be realistic with where we are today and we should continue to gain the coalitions of the momentum with other states following California's lead and at some point there becomes a tipping point where there's enough states and population following California's lead that the federal government regulations may not be impacting with the automakers are doing as much. Well, many of the automakers though got together to support the rollback in the cafe standards, for example so that certainly doesn't support the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles. What we saw with that was that there was a a split almost down the middle of automakers joining California and those joining trump and even after we. saw those announcements. We haven't seen those automakers completely changing what their electric vehicle rollout plans are. So speaking of cafe standards, gas prices are pretty low right now, I saw something on your website about owning electric vehicle could be like paying less than two dollars a gallon for gas frankly pay to thirty five a gallon for gas in Virginia. So which is pretty close. So how to low gas prices affect? The success of the programs is southern California Edison is trying to do to drive adoption electric vehicles. That's really interesting. I I wish that. We had gas prices that were that low here is. Our gas prices I. Haven't gone through gas station in quite a while. So I'm not exactly sure what the what the number is today but it's around the high three dollars into four dollars for gas here. So for us, the charging of electricity is significant financial benefits. So I think that's a consideration in each location you need to look at what are the gas prices there compared to? The electricity prices that are there to see the see the difference a couple of quick questions before I ask you a couple of career questions. I. Saw the southern California. Edison is also bringing more electric buses onto the roads. Can you talk a little bit about that? Yes. We have a fairly large infrastructure investment program for medium and heavy duty vehicles which include transit buses and school buses in addition to. Electric, garbage trucks, delivery trucks, poured equipment, and so we're helping to electrify those sectors as well. We put in infrastructure and charging stationed for those types of vehicles and what's interesting about those segments is that medium and heavy duty vehicles are disproportionately impacting poor air quality. We have the worst air quality in the in country not a place we like to. Be I N and electrifying those vehicles and using our clean electricity that we have in our grid them to help impact not just greenhouse gas emissions but air quality, which is a very important environmental justice issue here in southern California why are those vehicles worse in greenhouse gases because they're not as their run on diesel or something or what is it about? Those vehicles that make them worse polluters right it's because a lot of time you hit the nail on the head they're running on on diesel. Okay. Okay. Yeah. I interviewed a woman from New Flyer about their electric buses to that was really really interesting as there are more electric buses on the road. There's also therefore bigger strain on the grid. What's Your solution to the grid challenge without obviously resorting to more use of fossil fuels to power grid well in in California just to to set the stage we in our portfolio, we do not have any coal and we have a very small portion from natural gas which is shrinking over time. You mentioned our goal to have seven million electric vehicles on the road. By twenty thirty, that is coupled with having at least eighty percent of our energy that is stoled be clean from renewables, and that is really critical for using electric vehicles. If you are using an electric system that is polluting, you're not getting as much benefit from electric vehicles as as you would from a very clean grid, the one that we have now. And are continuing to head towards. So that's the the second part of your question. The first part was a believe more around preparedness of the grid, and for that one we're partnering with our customers to understand early wear they expect to be putting in electric buses and electric trucks so that we can have the grid ready when they have those vehicles delivered we've. Been Building, our electricity grid for over one hundred years at planning and and building the the great out to meet new electric loads as our core competencies. So we are confident that working with our customers will be able to to satisfy their needs Oh. So you're adapting your time line of preparing the grid for the increased load based on the timing that. Your clients have four putting those electric buses on the road that's interesting but you're trying at the same time to increase the adoption of electric vehicles to seven million by twenty thirty. So I assume that implies then that you have a plan for aging the grid by twenty thirty to accommodate seven million electric vehicles. Yes, we do. Okay. Good luck on that one. Home. Well, I'm fascinated by utilities because no, really because utilities have to reinvent themselves without losing a moment of service to anybody at the same time that they're regulated don't necessarily know where all the raw materials are gonNA come from more win. So it's a it's a very tricky spot when I was at Chrysler I negotiated deals with some real estate developers to include our cars in the sale of the homes that they were building they installed to forty outlets in the garages, and as You well know they can either can. Then there's a regenerative quality, right? Especially in California where you have power outages that can come in Handy so. What kinds of deals with buildings and developers are you guys negotiating to help support your seven million cargo thank you for asking that question in California we have requirements that new buildings including new homes are easy ready, which means that the the buildings have to have at least some of the panels and the conduit put in to be able to support ev charging and right now that doesn't mean that it. All of the infrastructure is there or that the charging stations are there what we have proposed and we have it in front of our Public Utilities Commission right now is that in addition to US building and installing ev chargers. For the last five years, we also will provide a rebate for new home builders to complete and have the the buildings completely ev ready through the rebate program. So you mean they when you say completely ev ready, you mean, they have to put in forty outlets or to put in charging stations in the end charging stations. Okay and how are you an and the developer gets to choose which charging station they WANNA. Use Gather, correct yes. All of the programs we've done today we provide to our customers the which would be the developers in this instant, a list of approved charging stations and network providers they have opportunity to choose from. Oh. Okay. So it was kind of prequalified list. Yes. That's okay. Before he asks you career question, one more industry question and that is what can other states and utilities learn from California's experience and specifically from Southern California? Edison's experience what can you suggest other states from the evolution that you've got you've gone through and especially because you've been there for so long you've watched Elvis. Driven it I love this question, and this is a core part of my. Day to day work is sharing our lessons with other electric utilities and I would say the first thing and the first thing we talk about is that this is an opportunity for them. This is a growth area, and it really is something that is beneficial for their customers for the communities for their stakeholders and you don't always find something that that has so many people lined. So I is looking at it as an opportunity versus. Just challenge and the second is that we like to share all of our program details and our lessons learned through the infrastructure programs that we've had today with other utilities so that they have the opportunity to copy, paste and or or tweak in their own different policy environments that they have. So I think one of the unique things about being a utility is that we aren't in a competitive environment with other electric providers. So we're able. To be a fairly book and the reason that's important to us is that one thing that we haven't talked about yet is it getting to some of these ambitious goals like seven million electric vehicles on the road in California? It's not just about California, it's not just about southern California Edison Service area. It's about this happening across the US and to the extent that utilities across the US can also provide support programs for their customers. We think that that will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles while I think you're right. Well, that's interesting. I guess that's probably also because you're so highly regulated you can't possibly be competitive, right? Gosh I hope they're adopting it because some of these utilities around the country I mean, you know better than I do are just kind of archaic and see no evil hear no evil speak no evil I mean they're just like keeping themselves. Bolivia's to what is quite obvious coming down the road if it's not already there and I sometimes wonder what's going to drive them. But maybe you're making it easier and saying here, just us just do what we did but adapted for your community or for your pc or for your grid structure will make it easier for them to do the right thing that's our intent and I will. Say It's encouraging because I've spent spoken with utilities from the northeast from the south from Texas from the middle of the country from Hawaii. So I'm seeing interest in a lot of places and one of the things that excites me the most is when I when I see news about new utility EV programs that are in the middle middle of the country or not in California or New York. were, you expect it. So I lived when I worked for Chrysler I lived in. US I hope you're sitting when I tell you this but I lived in Fargo North Dakota so I noticed North Dakota has the lowest adoption of electric vehicles in the country. I, think they have like thirty. And I think that's mostly we're our plant was frankly because when Chrysler was fell apart they division was sold and it was moved out of North Dakota. So who knows but anyway. So a couple of quick career questions before I. Let you go tell us about a career decision that you made mid career whatever that feels like for you that in retrospect was a turning point how you made that decision and what you learned from it. So I think one of the biggest decisions that I made mid career was that I had been in the regulatory and policy space for quite a few years and I knew that. Run. Don't always want to be in that space I. Loved it. But I wanted something more and I was able to find an opportunity at our parent company in the strategic cleaning department working on strategic projects that they needed people that understood the renewable renewable space but it was more from a different function and I was able to parlay that. Working in electric vehicles and the important thing that I learned was that it's easy to to pivot your role if you're not doing a complete one eighty. So I always look at it in terms of what is your subject matter area, and then what is your functional expertise? So if I was working on policy, which was the functional expertise in renewables, I could have it into working on renewable, but in strategy, and then you can transition on working on strategy, but with electric vehicles and you can kind of leapfrog where you want your final destination. To be doing these, what I would call more quarter circle pits as opposed to trying to to do something completely new and I found that that's a been a helpful way to learn and grow and and try new things. Oh, that's really great I. Love that. So and also I'm sure you're economics degrees came in handy in that strategic planning exercise that's really smart and they obviously they're related right? So did you intend to end up an electric vehicles when you made that choice to go into strategic planning or you just knew you didn't want to be in? On the regulatory policy side the whole time I knew that I wanted to get closer into some of our business lines, which is where I ended up now and then I've always had a north star even from my early early days of working in clean energy. So that has really helped to guide and direct my career. Early on I was working more in energy efficiency programs then moved into renewables and then moved into electric vehicles so I have always had the. Northstar of learning different subject matter areas but within that realm of clean energy interesting. So enclosing, what advice would you give a woman in mid career who wants to know? So she has a certain amount of experience not fresh out of college who wants to use her education, her experience and her passion for making a difference in her career she wants to get ahead she wants to make money. This is not just volunteer work. So what would you suggest to her? The main thing I would suggest is just take the slogan from Nike of just do it. If you think that there's something your organization or company that's lacking, don't ask for permission to make it happen. I think that we all have more authority and autonomy the then we give ourselves and we sometimes think, oh, this would be something great to happen but no. One's told me to do it. I would think if you're ever thinking thinking about that, take it on yourself and make it happen I. think that that if you can do that in the subject matter area where you want to advance your career, people will see you as someone that can get things done and I think that that will help you to go even further. Within the realm of your your company or Organizations Politics Light, right? No I think that's great and. Sometimes your politics might require you're going to your boss or bringing it up in a meeting and saying, Hey, what if we flipped it over and turned it purple and made it polkadot you know and or you know what? If we shot for a seven million you know? Created a goal of seven million lunging vehicles. Are you out of your mind, and sometimes you can just do a small case study on your own and bring it in with results is funny example comes to mind. But one of the incredibly cool women I've interviewed is a woman who believe it or not started a business to collect scraps of material from the garment industry in New York when she worked for the New York City Garbage Department and she started this business and some of the people who. Buy Some of the remnants which are in some cases, large bolts of fabric, our designers as some of the big design houses, they WANNA try a little design on their own without kind of making a big deal about it. So they take the ball to they take the fabric and they do it either on their own and off hours or at home and try it out and then bring it in it works if they like it. Yes, I love that. Concept. So that kind of sounds like what you're saying is I like that don't ask for permission to just make it happen. That's that's inspiring Miss Katie. Thank you so much. Well, thank you so much. John I. Appreciate it. Oh, you're well come. Thank you so much for joining us today green connections radio, Katie Sloan Director of EAM ability at southern California Edison. Are you more interested in buying an electric vehicle now? tweet. It. US at John. Michaelson posted on our facebook page and find us on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to us today or on our website green connections radio dot com, where you also find a lot of my forbes blonde and other blogs and articles as well. If you want to gain career support for women like me and Katie pigmy via twitter or linked in or through our contact us page and we all try to help you on John Michaelson. Thank you for joining us. See you next time.