Californians are about ready to have lots of \u201cfun, fun, fun\u201d in electric cars, says the California Air Resources Board. But, few are talking about the cost on the grid--and who should pick up the tab. At press time, the Air Board was set to vote on new automotive emissions standards to cut both greenhouse gases and smog-forming pollutants. They\u2019re intended to make battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles commonplace by 2025. By then, Californians are expected to drive almost 400,000 strictly battery-powered vehicles and 900,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles. Plug-ins and battery-powered models are expected to represent at least 15 percent of the 1.8 million cars sold annually in California. That\u2019s 270,000 a year. For utilities, it\u2019s akin to providing service to 1.3 million new homes by 2025--because the cars can draw almost as much power as a house while they\u2019re charging. Providing that electricity to charge the cars won\u2019t be simple. That\u2019s because these cars won\u2019t be connecting to the grid in new locales where you simply run new lines. Instead, they\u2019re going to be juiced up in the same neighborhoods utilities currently serve with aging distribution equipment that\u2019s close to being overburdened. If the Air Board is right, it\u2019s going to require distribution system upgrades--including new transformers and lines--plus new \u201csub meters\u201d to measure electricity use by the cars in an effort to manage the new load and incentivize charging at non-peak hours. As Ray Charles sang, \u201cThe night time is the right time.\u201d Regulators face the question of who should pay the cost of the new infrastructure. It will be substantial. For instance, sub meter installation can cost a thousand dollars per car, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. By 2025 that amounts to $1.3 billion. Add to that sub meters for charging stations at public facilities like office and shopping center parking garages. The prospect\u2019s got electricians whistling \u201cIf you\u2019ve got the money, honey, I\u2019ve got the time.\u201d It\u2019s easy to be jaded and see the Air Board\u2019s projection as just another rosy scenario. As an observer of energy and environmental developments for many years--not to mention having spent time promoting clean technologies while working for an air quality agency--this time the advance of electric vehicles looks to be for real. In fact, they could come faster than even the Air Board expects, lending urgency to questions about how to equitably apportion the costs of related grid upgrades. History illustrates what\u2019s at stake. Ever since the demise of energy-efficient cars built in the late 1970s and 1980s after the oil embargos of the 1970s, the sport utility vehicle and large pickup driving crowd has imposed higher costs on all of us. By sopping up more and more gasoline, those well inked guys and gals in baseball hats barreling down the road in big trucks have driven up the price of oil for everybody, Prius owners and \u201cwidows and orphans\u201d with fuel oil heating alike. Violins please. Now the question is whether history is about to repeat itself with electric vehicles. Will electric vehicle owners in tony smart-growth neighborhoods drive up the cost of power for the poor in un-air conditioned apartments and big families in far-flung desert subdivisions as they hog new utility infrastructure at everybody else\u2019s expense? Or will electric vehicle owners pay their full share? That question is a major issue. With all the major automakers bringing out plug-in hybrids or battery-powered cars over the next two years, including the new plug-in Prius in March--plus warnings of $5 gasoline by Memorial Day--any upper middle class motorist shopping for a new car would be a fool not to test drive an electric model and kick the tires. Once they do, there\u2019s a good chance that like Mustang Sally, all they\u2019ll \u201cwanna\u2019 do is ride around.\u201d It will be up to the California Public Utilities Commission to put their \u201cflat feet on the ground\u201d when it comes to the cost of upgrading the distribution system.