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Climate Action Plan Blog Series: Electric Vehicles Move Forward Climate Goals

Learn about electric vehicles (EVs), building EV charging infrastructure, and potential opportunities to encourage transportation electrification

Electric Vehicles Move Forward Climate Goals

Each month, the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S/CAP) Ad Hoc Committee will do a deep dive into various topics related to the S/CAP Update — the City’s roadmap of strategies to address climate change and specifically to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% by 2030 and other community-wide sustainability goals. Read on in this blog series to learn more about transportation electrification opportunities, and ways to make an impact and share input.


At the November 4 Ad Hoc meeting, Committee members, staff and the public discussed electrifying vehicle travel, building out EV charging infrastructure, municipal fleet electrification, and heard a brief history of PaloAltoGreen. Brief updates on each of these areas are listed below. Watch the meeting recording.


Electric Vehicles & Benefits in Addressing Climate Change

Road transportation is Palo Alto’s largest remaining source of GHG emissions. Roughly 65% of our remaining emissions come from transportation — people driving their cars into, out of, and around Palo Alto. There are three ways to reduce vehicle emissions:

  1. Reduce vehicle miles traveled. Travel demand can be reduced by encouraging telework, transit-oriented development, and encouraging non-vehicle travel like walking, biking, taking public transit, and carpooling.
  2. Electrify vehicle travel. If driving is necessary, do so in an electric vehicle! In Palo Alto, electricity is carbon-neutral and is sourced mostly from renewable electricity, so switching to an EV reduces emissions drastically. To reach our goals, the estimated number of registered EVs in Palo Alto needs to increase from 5,000 in 2020 to 25,000 in 2030.
  3. Improve Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle efficiency. Improving an ICE vehicle’s miles per gallon reduces the amount of GHG per mile. Ultimately, a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is determined by the car manufacturer, but there are several things you can consistently do to help improve your fuel efficiency, including clear out extra clutter in your car or trunk, limit idling, keep a steady speed and stay within the speed limit, make sure your tire pressure is at the right level, and perform regular maintenance.

Since the City of Palo Alto has little control over ICE vehicle efficiency, current programs focus on reducing vehicle miles traveled and electrifying vehicle travel. At the December S/CAP Ad Hoc Meeting, mobility and how to reduce vehicle miles traveled will be discussed more in depth. As we look at the overall cost of emissions reductions needed to meet our 80 x 30 goal, transitioning to EVs is one of the more cost-effective strategies available.

In Palo Alto, 1 in 6 households drive an EV — the highest adoption rate in the country. There are more models to choose from than ever before with improved range and at various price points. With lower maintenance and fueling costs, in the long run EVs are cheaper to own than a fossil fuel vehicle. By 2030, the goal is that EVs constitute 44% of all registered vehicles in Palo Alto and 85% of all new vehicle sales. In order to accelerate the transition to EVs, we need to raise awareness, build more EV charging infrastructure, and provide incentives for the community — not only for vehicles, but e-Bikes and e-Scooters as well.

For more information about EVs, a cost calculator and current incentives, visit

Building EV Charging Infrastructure

To support the growing number of EVs registered in Palo Alto, we will need to build more EV charging infrastructure. Focus needs to be on multi-family buildings and non-profit properties. There are 11,000 households in Palo Alto that live in multi-family buildings, and there are many challenges to installing EV infrastructure in these buildings. To address the challenge, the City has several incentive opportunities that include an EV Charging Rebate Program, EV Charging Technical Assistance Program, and Transformer Upgrade program.

The City is also piloting a curbside EV charging program and has installed 120 City-owned charging ports available to the public, where residents can charge their EVs overnight in public garages. Find a map of all EV charging stations in the City by visiting and navigating to the accordion titled “No Charging at Home? No Problem!” With California Clean Fuel Reward incentive, the City provides funding to this State-run program to provide point of sale EV incentives at local dealerships. The California Energy Commission’s California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP) is a partnership among regional energy providers to offer a workplace and public charging incentive program for San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.

Fleet Electrification

The City is assessing the potential to electrify the City Fleet through a Fleet Electrification Study. To date, a total of 352 vehicles were assessed, including 240 light duty vehicles, 66 medium duty vehicles, and 46 heavy duty vehicles. The initial data from the study estimates that approximately half of the City’s fleet can be replaced with equivalent electric vehicles that are commercially available and likely to be cost-effective. With equivalent EV’s in the market today, and following current replacement schedules, Palo Alto could electrify 40% of its light-duty vehicles by 2030, and 74% by 2040.

While not a part of the City’s Fleet, Palo Alto is electrifying its refuse collection trucks. In 2016, Palo Alto purchased the first fully automated all-electric side loader refuse vehicle for residential refuse collection in the United States through its refuse collection contract with GreenWaste of Palo Alto. This particular vehicle saves approximately 6,000 gallons of diesel per year and reduces emissions by about 78 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year. The City is planning to systematically electrify the refuse collection fleet, which currently includes four all-electric vehicles, shown below. There are plans to obtain three additional EVs in the next few years.

For more information on Electric Vehicles and EV Chargers, visit


As work continues on the S/CAP Update, the City Council asked that staff look into a PaloAltoGreen equivalent program to fund the City’s programs. staff identified several potential funding sources such as grants, Low Carbon Fuel Standard revenues, Electric Special Projects reserve, and a PaloAltoGreen equivalent voluntary surcharge. PaloAltoGreen Electric was a voluntary program established in 2003 that allowed electricity customers to purchase 100% renewable electricity for an additional surcharge. It ended in 2013 and was replaced with the Carbon Neutral Electricity program. The PaloAltoGreen Electric program accrued a net revenue of about $706,000 in 2012 and cost just over $400,000 to administer.

PaloAltoGreen Gas was a voluntary program established in 2014 that allowed natural gas customers to purchase carbon offsets to mitigate carbon impacts. It ended in 2017 and was replaced with the Carbon Neutral Natural Gas Program.

Staff identified several potential funding sources such as grants, Low Carbon Fuel Standard revenues, Electric Special Projects reserve, and a PaloAltoGreen equivalent voluntary surcharge. Staff continue to explore potential funding sources for S/CAP Implementation.

Watch the full November 4 meeting on YouTube here; the presentation can be found here. All Ad Hoc Committee meeting materials are posted here.


An online survey was recently launched to help inform climate and sustainability conversations taking place with the S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee and City Council. We welcome your input through the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Update Survey.

The survey should take about 5 minutes to complete, and the City invites the community toshare additional thoughts as e survey as you learn more through the Ad Hoc Committee meetings. The survey is open through April 2022.

Take the survey today!


The Ad Hoc meetings are open to the public and a good way for staff to hear from the community on specific sustainability related goals, City programs and actions.

The next Ad Hoc meeting is scheduled for December 9 from 9–11:30 a.m. and will continue the discussion on transportation, this time focusing on how the City can help reduce transportation emissions through mobility programs and land use decisions. In the short term, we hope to reduce transportation emissions by reducing vehicle miles traveled through mobility programs that encourage and incentivize reducing solo trips in vehicles and increasing other modes of transportation, like carpooling, bicycling, walking, and taking public transit. In the long term, we will need to examine how land use decisions could potentially reduce vehicle miles traveled even more. Provide your input by taking the S/CAP survey or submitting comments/questions to

Learn more about mobility ahead of the coming meeting here.

Registration is required in advance of the meeting. Register here. View past meetings and materials by visiting


While the S/CAP update is underway, there are several things community members can do now to further the community’s sustainability goals. This section provides tools to make a local impact now! Chat with your neighbors and community networks about what they are considering or have recently accomplished to further climate action and sustainability efforts at home.

Opt for an Electric Vehicle

President Biden recently announced a target of 50% of new vehicles sold in the US to be electric by 2030. Our city ranks as one of the top in the nation to embrace this clean technology. Electric vehicles now account for more than 30% of new car sales in Palo Alto — the highest adoption rate in the country. Driving and charging an EV in Palo Alto especially makes sense given the City’s carbon neutral electricity supply and low electric retail rates. To learn more about EVs, EV Chargers, and available rebates, go here.

Bike and Walk More

Road transportation represents the largest percentage of Palo Alto’s existing carbon footprint — and a congestion headache. Reducing emissions from the transportation sector requires addressing three things: reducing the carbon intensity of fuels, increasing vehicle efficiency, and reducing the number of miles travelled in a vehicle. To learn more about reducing the number of miles you drive by switching to bicycling and walking in Palo Alto, go here.

For the City’s sustainability website to learn more, visit


  • Read the first blog to learn more about the S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee and other sustainability programs available to the community today
  • Read the second blog in the series to learn about electrifying appliances in single-family residential buildings
  • Read the third blog in the series to learn about non-residential building electrification
  • A summary of the questions and answers from the October S/CAP Ad Hoc Committee Meeting can be found here
  • For details on the City’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan process go to:
  • The City’s Sea Level Rise Website can be found here:
  • For more on the City’s Electrification programs, go here:
  • For more on the City’s Green Building Program including Trainings, go here.
  • For more on programs focused on Electric Vehicles and Chargers:
  • For the City’s Safe Routes to School programs, go here.
  • For more on Zero Waste programs, including tools to avoid food waste, go here.




Official communications from the City of Palo Alto. Connect and join the conversation on issues of interest to our community.

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