Robyn Marquis Q&A for MOVE America!

Robyn Marquis joined CALSTART in 2022 as the Director of Innovative Mobility. She oversees the Clean Mobility Options Voucher Pilot Program (CMO) team, which administers this first-in-the-nation program to provide zero-emission mobility to underserved communities and improve their quality of life.  

She also oversees CALSTART’s Innovative Mobility Working Group, a consortium of over 50 transit agencies, service and technology providers, and other key stakeholders advancing better mobility options to reduce climate impacts.

We had a great chat with Robyn about the amazing incentive programs CALSTART have implemented and some of the fantastic things we will be seeing from them in the future!


Q: Tell us about CALSTART


A: Yeah, thank you for having me. CALSTART is a nonprofit organisation. We work nationally and internationally with businesses and governments to develop clean and efficient transportation solutions. We have offices all over the US. We are headquartered in California. I’m located in New York, another one of our offices, and we are also in Michigan, Colorado, and Florida. Working with industry partners worldwide, we currently have about 300 member companies and other agencies that are innovating to help us build a prosperous, efficient and clean high tech transportation industry.

Collectively we’re working on two pretty large goals in clean transportation. The first being, reducing US transportation emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. And then secondly, helping to ensure that all regions are achieving federal air quality standards to support clean air for all. And we do this through a variety of mechanisms.

We administer a lot of large-scale incentive programs on the vehicle side and on the infrastructure side. We also convene multiple industry working groups. We have a lot of advocacy work working with a lot of other partners in the clean transportation space, so that we’re all kind of rowing in the same direction and ensuring that we’re leveraging everybody’s efforts to have a greater impact, kind of the, sum is greater than the parts.


Q: California leads the nation with its EnergIIZE Commercial Vehicles Project, which provides incentives for zero-emission fleet charging infrastructure equipment. What has been the impact of this been on electric vehicle uptake?

A: EnergIIZE in particular, which is for commercial vehicle infrastructure, has a series of funding rounds. We recently launched the first of the funding rounds. We received over 60 applications, and it was fully subscribed within seconds or even milliseconds. So, we definitely know that the demand there is quite large.  The goal of that program in particular is to increase market acceleration but it’s a little too early for us to fully determine the effect that we’re having at a broad level. Based on the interest that we saw with that over subscription of the funding, the webinars that we’ve hosted people reaching out, and emailing us about the program, we are very optimistic about the demand at large. And as far as we know, EnergIIZE in particular is the first of its kind and the largest, medium and heavy-duty incentive program in the market. So, we’re really hopeful that that’s going to continue to drive the uptake of electric vehicles. The industry is really evolving rapidly to address the concerns that we’ve been hearing particularly early on in some of these vehicle developments and deployments about range anxiety and the different unique duty cycles, particularly in commercial vehicles.

Passenger cars kind of have a way that they’re typically driven and charged. If you’re looking at commercial vehicles, it could be a delivery truck, it could be a garbage truck, it could be a bus. The ways in which those are utilized are quite different in terms of duty cycles, so their charging needs are different as well, and that has led to some issues in terms of transitioning fleets to zero emission. Through this kind of incentive program, and then complementing that with incentives on the vehicle side, as well, we’re really hoping to drive a more rapid uptake in the transition to zero emission fleets. And hopefully it works because infrastructure is the key part of everything.


Q: CALSTART has also announced a landmark at the UN climate change conference, where you said that you would have a hundred percent zero emission new trucks by 2040. How do you plan to implement this and how far along are you?

This is something that we’re really proud to be involved in and really seeing a lot of progress as we shift from kind of the initial establishing beachhead markets in terms of where would we see early adopter vehicles and now starting to secure that policy alignment. Currently, we have a group of 16 signatory countries and hope to bring more into the MOU as well. Our top priority is to then turn those MOU targets that we have into concrete policies. How can we be supporting these signatories in really adopting this change through specific regulatory policy, implementation actions, and figuring out how they can all individually and then collectively meet these goals?

So that’s identifying their pain points. What are some of their policy priorities? Who are key experts in the space that can help share their lessons learned? Those that maybe are a little bit further along, how did they work through the process and how can they transfer some of that knowledge back to those that are just maybe getting started? We hold quarterly calls with all of the countries, really around deep themes, economics, infrastructure, as we’ve been saying, regulations and incentives. There are many large markets that haven’t signed up yet. So, our goal in those that are in large markets for producing vehicles or maybe are lower and moderate-income counties Is to ensure that we’re securing a large set of stakeholders and diverse set of countries in this pledge.

Looking also at the industry side of it, this can’t be done without industry participation. We have, in addition to those 16 countries, 50 subnational governments and companies that endorse the ambition of the MOU. So, we’re recognizing that national governments alone aren’t going to be able to fulfill this. It’s really a broad set of stakeholders that need to participate. So that’s working with the leading manufacturers and fleets to ensure that we are responsive to their pain points and market needs, and things like the incentives and other programs that we’ve been discussing cumulatively can help transition them through the different stages of the strategy.

Actually, not that long ago, we released the 2040 global roadmap, which has these six main steps of the strategy that are looking at the kind of different use cases, such as long haul versus cities and establishing the backbone of the infrastructure. We are now going to be ensuring that the next piece is coming online to help those countries that have signed on and tracking their progress. We’ve built a dashboard for this, and it’s something that we’re hoping to release and discuss at COP27, actually.


Q: What do you think will be the next big industry developments in the next 12-18 months?

A: It’s such a large multi stakeholder or multi-jurisdictional issue. True to form I have a few tracks of thought here. In addition to the kind of technology and maybe traditional transportation mobility side of it, the big changes are going to need to come in land use.

Where people live, where their things are, how they are trying to get to school, job, etc. There are a lot of solutions that are working in certain kinds of markets that are maybe not as feasible in some of the places in the U.S in particular, where just structurally communities were laid out in response to auto ownership and auto usage.

Looking at opportunities to do some infill in cities, bring some more of those things that they need closer to home, thinking about transit-oriented development and complementing the big land use picture with more of the tech, innovation and some of the disruptors that we’re going see at MOVE America in particular, needing to really look more multimodal and on the infrastructure side, looking beyond bike lanes, that’s a huge barrier.


Q: What are you excited for at MOVE America?

A: In addition to just really being excited to go to Austin, Texas, which has been high on my list of very cool cities and in particular places that are doing a lot on the mobility side, what I’m really excited about kind of across the board for MOVE America is just how broad the programming is. I think the breadth of the event and of the sessions really maps against CALSTART’s initiative areas. We’re working in everything from ultra-light duty to heavy duty and seeing the sessions kind of complementing in terms of, you know, there is no silver bullet. There are all of these different approaches that need to be combined.


Q: What can we expect to hear from you there?

My session in particular is focused on ways to make EVs accessible to all and getting at some of the core challenges in access. CALSTART is part of the administrator team that implements the Clean Mobility Options program in California, and this empowers under-resourced communities to better understand and overcome their mobility obstacles through either needs assessments, or ultimately the deployment of clean, shared, zero-emission mobility services.

That’s a pretty unique first of its kind program that’s really looking at  what does a community need? What do they want? How can they co-design the solution for them and ensure that those that are perhaps lower income or have other mobility challenges aren’t left out of the electrification component?

To find out more about CALSTART head to: CALSTART