CPUC Clarifies Regulatory Status of Medium/Heavy-Duty Electric Vehicle Charging

At the request of CALSTART, a nonprofit electric vehicle (EV) advocacy organization and several EV charging market participants, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has formally clarified in Decision 20-09-025 that providers of EV charging service to medium and heavy-duty (MDHD) EVs and equipment will not be regulated as public utilities.

Ten years ago, as automakers began marketing EVs to a new generation of early adopters, the CPUC issued a crucial decision (D.10-07-044) excluding providers of battery charging service to light-duty EV drivers from CPUC regulation. This clarification meant that retailers, employers, public agencies and third party charging service providers could invest in expansion of EV charging infrastructure and offer EV drivers access to EV chargers across the state of California without fear of being regulated as electric utilities by the CPUC.

Since that decision in 2010, the market for EVs and off-road EV equipment has grown and expanded significantly. While initially the market focused on light-duty cars, vehicle manufacturers are now producing electric trucks, delivery vans, transit and school buses, and a wide variety of battery-operated equipment including yard tractors, forklifts, port loading equipment, etc. Projects designed to create charging infrastructure for these MDHD vehicles ran into utility opposition and financing concerns because, while it was broadly understood that EV charging is not a regulated business, the relevant statutory exemption and CPUC decision language only addressed charging for light-duty EVs.

This week’s decision resolves that ambiguity, providing express clarification that “charging service providers are not public utilities, in accordance with the Legislature’s overall intentions with respect to providing charging services and developing business models to support widespread transportation electrification.” The clarification applies to the full range of electric cars, trucks and buses, as well as marine vessels, cargo handling equipment, construction or agricultural equipment, small off-road engines, and off-highway recreational vehicles. Investor-owned utilities will file tariff changes to implement the CPUC’s decision.

The CPUC’s decision coincides with significant statewide policy initiatives to decarbonize transportation in California, including the California Air Resources Board’s Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation and Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-79-20, setting a goal that 100 percent of in-state sales of new passenger cars and trucks, drayage trucks, off-road vehicles and equipment will be zero-emission by 2035, and that 100 percent of other MDHD vehicles will be zero emission by 2045.

Contact: Lynn Haug and Ron Liebert