No-garage wannabe-EV-drivers> (If only I could charge it)

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No-garage wannabe-EV-drivers> (If only I could charge it)

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For drivers without garages, charging a big barrier to electric cars
November 24, 2017  Kate Galbraith

[images  / Paul Chinn, The Chronicle
Amy Hale leaves her Berkeley home to unplug her electric car. She is part of
a project that allows curbside charging stations
Amy Hale drives her Chevrolet Spark electric vehicle after recharging it
overnight in front of her home in Berkeley. She and her fiance are
participating in a pilot project by the city of Berkeley to permit a limited
number of curbside charging stations
A curbside charging station for Amy Hale’s electric car stands in front of
her home in Berkeley. Hale paid several thousand dollars to install the
station, but she says it is much easier than piecemeal charging solutions,
like looking for plugs in grocery store parking lots

Amy Hale leaves her Berkeley home to unplug her electric car. She is part of
a project that allows curbside charging stations.

When Jerry Griffin of Russian Hill shopped for a new car last year, he
wanted one that ran on electricity, not gasoline. But without a garage, it
seemed impossible.

“I would have, if I had a place to charge it, definitely gotten one of the
battery type,” said Griffin, who settled instead on a small gasoline-powered
car made by Smart.

The San Francisco metro area, at the intersection of environmental concern
and technological prowess, has more electric vehicles than most cities
worldwide. But for many residents, buying one remains unrealistic. Even as
prices for EVs fall and the cars’ ranges increase, the hassle of plugging
them in remains daunting for those who have only street parking. It is a
problem that San Francisco and other cities will have to solve as
governments around the world look to cut greenhouse gas emissions
(California wants to slash them about 40 percent over the next 13 years).

“Obviously, we want to have significantly more charging infrastructure, not
just in San Francisco but all around California,” said Assemblyman Phil
Ting, D-San Francisco, who plans to introduce a bill next year that would
ban new gasoline and diesel cars cars after 2040. Ting has an electric
Chevrolet Bolt that he can charge at both home and work.

Charging stations are proliferating in city and corporate garages, thanks to
investment by electric utilities and private companies such as ChargePoint
and Tesla. But getting to them can be a hassle, and a parking spot at work
can be expensive.

More money is coming. A year ago, regulators approved plans from Pacific Gas
and Electric Co. to spend $130 million to install 7,500 charging stations in
Northern and Central California. It’s an enormous number, and at least 20
percent — but perhaps as much as half — will be used for stations serving
multifamily housing.

“There’s no silver bullet for sure, but I think the PG&E program is not to
be underestimated,” said Max Baumhefner, an attorney with the Natural
Resources Defense Council.

PG&E also has proposed spending $22 million for fast charging stations near
multifamily buildings; this would help show whether such chargers could
increase electric car usage among residents who lack garages, Baumhefner

California is getting about $800 million for charging infrastructure through
the settlement with Volkswagen over the German automaker’s diesel emissions
cheating devices. Another VW settlement could add millions more.

Rules are changing too. Starting in January, San Francisco will require all
new buildings, both residential and commercial, to install wiring to enable
20 percent of parking spots to be electrified, with 10 percent ready to
serve electric cars when the building opens.

Berkeley has gone a step further. The city is completing a pilot project
that allows a small number of property owners without garages to install a
residential charging station, something not previously permitted. But it’s
expensive — participants adding curbside stations probably spend $5,000 to
$10,000, estimates Sarah Moore, who administers the program — and only a
handful of people have done it.

Amy Hale, a central Berkeley resident, installed a curbside charging station
last year as part of the program, paying about $4,000 to $6,000 for the
project, which included an electrician’s fees and sidewalk work along with
the station itself.

Before that, she and her fiance “were basically trying to survive, more or
less, without a charger of our own, because it’s illegal to have anything
across the sidewalk,” she said. In their desperation, they ran an extension
cord to the car — “which wasn’t cool,” she said. It was also inconvenient,
because the low voltage on her home outlet meant charging took a long time.

When they went to spots with charging stations, such as Whole Foods or
Berkeley Bowl, she said, “We would pay for charging and just take
extra-long” to shop.

Despite having installed the charger, Hale can’t reserve the parking spot in
front of her house. But she notified the neighbors about the station’s
existence, and the vast majority of the time, she is able to park by the

Ultimately, San Francisco will need more charging stations if it is to
persuade more residents to go electric. “Among leading EV markets around the
world, denser cities like Amsterdam have one public charger per about five
electric cars, compared to one public charger per 25-30 electric cars in
California markets,” Nic Lutsey, who leads electric vehicle research for the
International Council on Clean Transportation, said in an email.

In Amsterdam, many of the parking spots are public, whereas in the U.S.,
“most electric car owners have their own garage and designated parking,”
said Lutsey, who noted that Europeans pushed for early public investments in

A 2013 paper by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University estimated that
just 56 percent of vehicles in the U.S. have a dedicated parking spot off
the street.

Without available chargers, it’s hard for people who want to be green to
take the final step to buy a clean vehicle, said Griffin, the Russian Hill

“It’s an irony of the situation, because I think a lot of people live in
cities because deep down they want to live sustainably and live a more
compact life,” he said.

The city of Berkeley’s Moore said many residents are finding their own
solutions, like working out deals with neighbors. Another creative idea: In
Los Angeles, the Department of Water and Power has installed some charging
stations connected to the electricity in streetlamps and utility poles.
Researchers are also experimenting with wireless charging.

“The good news is that the electric grid is basically everywhere — we just
have to extend it the last 10 or 20 feet, to the driveway, to the curbside,”
said Baumhefner, who said he used to run an extension cord out of a rental
unit window to the driveway to charge his electric car, but now, after
moving, has an easier setup.

Ultimately, of course, if the vision of San Francisco ride-hailing leaders
Uber and Lyft comes to pass, no one will have a car: They will be shared
self-driving cars that can be hailed by app.

“It will be interesting to see how many people in San Francisco even
continue to own their own cars,” Ting said.
[© 2017 Hearst Corporation]

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