California has the perfect climate for innovation and electrification. From new automakers, such as Karma, Canoo and Alpha, to concerns for the environment and equity for all neighbourhoods, California is surfing the wave of electrification. As the Biden administration plans to build back better, the clean mobility movement in California acts as a blueprint for a cleaner greener future.
Good Karma from Karma Motor Company
As a premium luxury brand, California was the logical location for the Karma brand due to the affluent lifestyle buyers expect and it is a great place to recruit top talent from the tech sector, says Mikael Elley, Karma Chief of Staff at Karma Automotive.
“The regulatory environment is also very friendly to electric vehicle companies such as Karma. For these reasons we decided to locate our headquarters in Irvine and our manufacturing facility in Moreno Valley,” says Elley.
From the picturesque settings of Malibu and La Jolla offering dynamic ocean vistas; to the thickly forested areas throughout the Redwood State Park; to the lakes and mountains in Lake Tahoe and Big Bear, the team at Karma can draw from hundreds of areas to gather design inspiration, adds Elley.
He says a pure EV platform allows for more flexibility from a design standpoint. The battery pack and propulsion system are typically below the occupant cabin or in the centre spline that runs the length of the vehicle. It allows designers to create new luxury vehicle configurations based on the platform. The all-electric GSe-6 is expected next year with lower price points.
Karma models are packed with new technology and original design elements which are still very practical and safe to own.
EV’s are easy to maintain since they have fewer moving components compared with ICE vehicles. EV features can improve safety since they tend to have a lower centre of gravity that makes them less likely to roll over. The body construction and durability of EVs may make them safer in a collision. EVs are also quieter than internal combustion vehicles, which means less noise pollution, notes Elley.
Another automaker based in Southern California is Canoo. Canoos have a large open interior and ability to hold standing bicycles, a small kayak or canoe and up to 13,435 ripe organic avocados. Canoos have enough space to create safe social distancing between the driver and a passenger. An available wellness package offers anti-microbial filtration.
Recently, Canoo announced a canvas wrap program to enable users to use the vehicle as a canvas for individuality. The canoo reflects its birthplace, Silicon Beach.
“The canoo is a good representation of our Californian environment – the intersection of technology, engineering, and lifestyle. The Silicon Beach area location has drawn a lot of design and engineering talent in the tech and automotive spaces, which has been helpful for the company as it continues to grow,” says Ulrich Kranz, CEO of Canoo.
“What’s special about Canoo is that we’re not building luxurious supercars for the wealthy or far-fetched concept cars that will never see the road. We are building high-quality, everyday electric vehicles for the average American. They are affordable, stress-free, and fully-equipped with everything the modern driver needs,” says Kranz.
The interior of the canoo is not your typical back seat but more like a yoga studio, meditation retreat or living room.
“We were inspired to create a minimalist design that is zen-like. We wanted our first vehicle to feel more like your living room than a car. That’s why we designed the seats of the canoo to take inspiration from mid-century modern furniture. We like to refer to our first vehicle as a loft on wheels,” says Richard Kim, Design & Brand, Canoo, who is a California native from San Jose, California.
Electrification is the single most influential factor in the design of Canoo’s vehicles. There is no longer a need for a traditional hood, a grill, or a segmented interior because all of that architecture can now be contained in a flat skateboard at the bottom of the vehicle, says Kim.
Electrification offers many advantages over traditional gas-powered vehicles. “Electric vehicles are not only better for the environment, but they are also just better. Period. Faster, more reliable, better integrated with autonomous technology, better cost of ownership. We hope that providing a friendly, approachable option will help more Americans understand that they don’t have to be afraid to go electric,” adds Kranz.
Alpha Motors Launches in Cali
The state of California continues to be the birthplace of new automakers. Recently, a new automaker hit the EV road, Alpha Motor Corporation, formed in California by CEO, Michael Smith, who’s from Pasadena.
California is the ideal location for electric car companies for two reasons. It is the home of many talented engineers and designers. Plus, California has many policies that support electrification, says Smith.
“I think California will be at the centre stage of electric car innovation,” says Smith who plans to manufacture the Alpha vehicles in the U.S.
The company draws on expertise from automakers such as Tesla, Hyundai and Lexus, says Smith. “We will be marketing to Millennials. We hope the Alpha feels like driving around in an iPhone on wheels.”
More details of the Alpha vehicle will be announced in the coming weeks. Smith hinted that the vehicle will be priced low enough to qualify for the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project rebate of $2,000.
Back to Nature and Choices
San-Diego, California-based Electric Car Insider produces events that bring EVs to the people. At electric drive events, participants get to learn about EV incentives and test drive many electric vehicles. Electric Car Insider has produced events throughout California and the U.S.
“A drive events, people become excited when they realize that they can help the environment by driving an electric vehicle,” says Christopher Alan, CEO, Electric Car Insider, “Californians love our beaches, mountains and deserts. Driving through these beautiful landscapes honours the beauty of nature if your car is not also polluting the air and water as you pass by.”
He says electric cars are fun to drive and are more affordable than ever due to lower prices. There are also still incentives, grants and rebates from the State of California and local utility companies.
When Electric Car Insider started in 2010 there were only eight electric car models available or soon to be available. Today EV buyers have many more choices. The cars have long ranges. There are many different models, from economy cars to luxury SUVs, says Alan.
Every Californian, regardless of race, income or ZIP code, should have access to affordable, clean transportation.
California not only supports the electric car industries with incentives but also helps low-income families to drive and ride in cleaner vehicles. The Greenlining Institute advocates for electrification for all Californians.
“The Greenlining Institute was founded in California by civil rights leaders who recognized our state’s promise. The state too often fails to live up to that progress for many of our residents. As we move forward on electric vehicles, we have to make sure none of our communities gets left behind,” says Bruce Mirken, Media Relations Director, The Greenlining Institute.
Low-income communities of colour typically breathe the dirtiest air and are most vulnerable to climate change, says Mirken. These frontline communities need affordable, clean transportation. Efforts against climate change won’t work unless all can participate.
“EVs can’t just be for the affluent. Every Californian, regardless of race, income or ZIP code, should have access to affordable, clean transportation,” says Mirken.
This year’s wildfires were shocking, not just with their horrendous damage, but by bringing toxic, dangerous air to much of the state.
“Low-income neighbourhoods breathe badly polluted air most of the time, leading to higher rates of asthma and other lung problems. Clean transportation can help lift the burdens on these communities — if it’s accessible and affordable,” says Mirken
The Greenlining Institute supports the general thrust of Gov. Newsom’s recent order requiring all new passenger vehicles sold in California to be zero-emission by 2035.
“The devil will be in the details. We’ve strongly supported programs like Clean Cars 4 All, the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program and the Sustainable Transportation Equity Project that make clean transportation a viable option in underserved communities. We need more forward-thinking efforts like these, backed by enough funding to make a difference,” says Mirken.
California, always a centre of innovation, has led in fighting climate change with policies based on science. Mirken hopes for clean air transportation equity for every Californian.
“We have a chance now to lead not just on saving the planet, but on uplifting California communities that, for so many generations, have had to do the most with the least. If we get this right, we can build a bright and healthy 21st century for all,” he proposes.