Snapshot: LA's Plan To Cut Smog 25 Percent By The 2028 Olympics (It's Electrifying)

A page from L.A.'s "Zero Emissions 2028 Roadmap."

Governor Jerry Brown asked California to stop polluting and use entirely electric energy by 2045 on Monday. By Tuesday, L.A. answered. (OK, judging by the very glossy roadmap they handed out, they might have had the answer already prepared.)

But here's the plan:

City officials want to eliminate 25 percent of our smog before the world arrives for the 2028 Olympics. And they say the path to doing so is by electrifying transportation.

David Wright of LADWP says doing that means a rapid evolution for how we get around L.A.

"We're going to change the entire way transportation is powered in a very short period of time," he says.

What does that actually mean?

FEWER GAS GUZZLING CARS, WAY FEWER

Dealing with cars dominates any roadmap to reducing pollution, particularly in car-culture Los Angeles.

Step No. 1 is making electric cars affordable, safe and easy to buy. And they'll have to be to meet the plan's goal to have as many as 45 percent of private cars be electric within 10 years.

Now, that's a stretch. A big one. California overall currently has about about 35 million private vehicles, only about 360,000 of them electric. So they're talking about going from about 1 percent to nearly 50 percent.

That also means increasing charging stations from less than 10,000 now to as many as 130,000.

There are interim goals along the way. For example, Wright says they want to see 15 percent of all vehicle purchases to be electric by 2023.

Beyond that, the group wants almost completely electric public transportation and small vehicles like electric scooters in places where walking doesn't make sense. And most autonomous cars that pop up between now and then will have to be electric too.

MOVING STUFF

Anyone who's seen the black smoke spewing from the pipes of a semi knows it's not just sedans and SUVs causing smog. That's why the plan also includes up to a quarter of those big semis and up to half of medium delivery trucks (the FedExes and UHauls of the world) to be electric in the next decade.

L.A. County Chief Sustainability Officer Gary Gero says changing how we move goods is one of the most important pieces.

"We can and must replace dirty diesel trucks with cleaner alternatives as quickly as possible, and this effort will kickstart our initiative so our children can breathe cleanly," he says.

The coalition also wants freight boats and trains to look into electrification as well. And if delivery by drone catches on, there's a line that makes sure those are electric too.

CREATING A NEW NORMAL

Matt Petersen, CEO of LA Cleantech Incubator, is part of a coalition working towards these goals that includes county and city officials, as well as groups like Metro, the Department of Water and Power, car companies and electric companies.

"The biggest challenge ahead of us in fighting global warming and California leading is transportation, and that's why this is so important," he said.

Petersen says hitting these lofty goals meant trying something the city's never done before.

Jack Kitowski of California Air Resources Board says this new solution is long overdue.

"We absolutely must stop and mitigate the devastating impact of climate change," he says. "And it's necessary because low-income and disadvantaged communities that are most impacted by air pollution simply cannot and should not wait longer."

READ THE FULL PLAN:


Correction: A previous version of this story reporter too low a number of both private vehicles in the state and electric vehicles. LAist regrets the error.

News happens every day. Here at LAist, our goal is to cover the stories that matter to you and the community you live in. Now that we're part of KPCC, those stories (including this one you're on right now!) are made possible by generous people like you. Independent, local journalism isn't cheap, but with your support we can keep delivering it. Donate now.