California, already the national leader in electric driving, is putting a fresh jolt of funding into its electric charging infrastructure.
In May, the California Energy Commission awarded nine cities and organizations nearly $1.8 million through its Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program to develop strategic plans outlining an approach to expand electric vehicle charging access.
The city of Santa Clara in the San Francisco Bay Area will develop a plan that builds on the region's already-robust EV charging infrastructure. Siemens Digital Grid and Silicon Valley Power received a $199,921 grant to develop an EV Readiness Blueprint Plan — an effort to get a sense of “what the EV future should be in Santa Clara and lay out the steps to get there,” said Mary Medeiros McEnroe, a spokesperson for Silicon Valley Power, a municipal-owned utility in Santa Clara.
“We envision a future where driving an EV is at least as easy and convenient as driving a gas-powered car,” McEnroe added. “We will be developing a strategy to be ready for whatever new technologies are on the horizon to support an EV infrastructure.”
Santa Clara will explore a number of infrastructure options — both existing and emerging, as well as various business models. Development of the plan will begin in the coming weeks, to be completed with 12 months.
“For example, how do we best reach multifamily customers and the low-income population, especially if they do not work for organizations who have charging stations available to their employees?” said McEnroe.
The plan will be developed using Siemens’ EV-Implementation Framework, technology created by Siemens to encourage EV use at the community level, according to Chris King, chief policy officer for Siemens Digital Grid.
“As part of the engagement, Siemens will also leverage its global learnings from the manufacture, deployment and operation of EV chargers for light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles,” said King in a statement.
The grant funding will be used to develop the strategic plans. However, once the plans are completed, those can compete for implementation funding.
Santa Clara Power currently operates 65 level 2 charging ports — which are generally 220 volts AC, similar to an electric dryer — and five Level 3 fast charging DC ports. Altogether, there are more than 400 charging ports available to the public in across 19 square miles.
“Our goal is to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and meet Gov. [Jerry] Brown’s target of 5 million electric vehicles in California by 2030,” said McEnroe. “We will be looking at where our city needs to (be) in the near future, as well as five and 10 years from now, all while being mindful of and ready to adapt to the rapid change in technology. We hope that our blueprint will be a model for other cities nationwide.”
California continues to be a leader in zero-emission vehicles — which are fully battery-powered electric cars, plug-in hybrid electric cars and cars powered by fuel cells. From October 2016 to October 2017, sales of ZEVs increased 29.1 percent, according to Next 10, a San Francisco think tank studying the environment and the economy. In fact, roughly 4.5 percent of the cars on the road in California are electric vehicles.
A recent study by Next 10 found that the state needs to step up its development of infrastructure needed to power electric vehicles. Today, there are only about 16,500 non-residential charging locations in California, according to the Next 10 report.
California recipients of the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program funding:
*Not yet approved, and will be voted on at a future meeting.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.