It’s no Field of Dreams, but a small construction project at neighboring Cathedral City High School has a similar aim: If you build it, they will come.

“They” are students and faculty who attend classes and work at the school, as well as community members who frequent the campus for events. “It” is a charging station for electric vehicles that will feature a dozen units when complete. Installation of those units began Monday morning.

While students are still more likely to be driving Toyotas than Teslas, the presence of the EV charging station may be what matters most.

“It’s going to be a great benefit,” said Julie Arthur, executive director of Facilities Planning for the Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD), during a site visit Monday. “If it’s visible, and students see it, it may help them get used to seeing things like this. They may even be thinking of a used electric vehicle, so they will have options like this for charging them if they do buy one.”

Cathedral City High School (CCHS) is the first school in Southern California to receive a charging station under a Southern California Edison (SCE) pilot program. But within two years, Arthur said, you can expect similar stations at all PSUSD high schools, including those in Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, and Rancho Mirage.

Why CCHS? “There are a lot of students who use this parking lot,” said Arthur. “And it’s in a high-visibility area [off Dinah Shore Drive]. There’s a lot of traffic that passes by here, so it just made sense.”

Monday’s installation was only the first step in the district’s journey to lower carbon emissions and a planned transition to what the state hopes is a zero-emission new car fleet by 2035. Arthur said installing EV infrastructure is vital because “these will help charge what will eventually be our own fleet of electric vehicles.”

What may be most attractive to district taxpayers is the cost. The installation is part of a state-approved $10 million SCE pilot project to provide electric vehicle charging stations to K-12 schools within the utility’s service area.

The project was made possible by legislation passed in 2017, which gave utilities like SCE the authority to develop programs to put charging stations at schools. The legislation also includes funding to produce educational materials about EVs for schools, which SCE will use to provide a curriculum focused on EVs, transportation, energy, and sustainability.

Within two years, the Palm Springs Unified School District hopes to have electric vehicle charging stations at all four of its high schools in the Coachella Valley.

“Considering what schools have had to deal with to get students back into classrooms, it’s remarkable that Palm Springs Unified and other districts were willing to devote time to getting charging stations installed at their schools,” said Lisa Arellanes, a senior manager with SCE’s eMobility team.

SCE has the nation’s most extensive suite of utility transportation electrification programs and initiatives. Earlier this year, it launched Charge Ready for light-duty vehicles, a program that will add as many as 38,000 new chargers throughout the company’s service area. Charge Ready Transport for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, launched last year, aims to add charging stations at a minimum of 870 commercial sites or enough infrastructure to support at least 8,490 industrial EVs.

Over the next few years, SCE’s electric transportation programs will have directly contributed to the electrification of more than 550,000 vehicles through direct rebates and add over 50,000 charging ports to Southern California.

According to a recent analysis by the utility, 75 percent of California’s vehicles need to be electric by 2045 for the state to achieve its climate goals.

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