Bakersfield, Calif., Poised to Expand EV Charging Network

The Bakersfield City Council is scheduled to vote on an agreement that would expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure from four stations to 30. The chargers would be placed at six locations throughout the city.

An electric car plugged into a charger
Unsplash/Markus Spiske
(TNS) — The Bakersfield City Council is poised to dramatically expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations available on public property.

At Wednesday's meeting, the council is scheduled to vote on an agreement that would add 30 ChargePoint charging stations to six city-owned areas of Bakersfield, including the 18th Street and Eye Street parking structure. That's a big jump from the four city-operated charging stations currently operating out of the Amtrak Station downtown.

There are 71 charging locations throughout Kern County, with 42 in Bakersfield, meaning the six proposed locations would increase the total by around 15 percent. However, those locations are in places like hospital parking lots and car dealerships, potentially unavailable to the general public.

If approved, the new charging stations would be installed at The Park at Riverwalk, the parking lot across the street from Cal State Bakersfield on Stockdale Highway, City Hall South, Mechanics Bank Arena, McMurtrey Aquatic Center, and the downtown parking structure.

Unlike the Amtrak electric vehicle charging stations downtown, the new additions will be Level 2 chargers, which charge faster than Level 1. The city is taking advantage of funds provided by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the California Energy Commission to complete the proposal. The $266,000 combined will fund around 80 percent of the project.

The funding is just one part of a state plan to put more electric vehicles on the road. California has a goal of 5 million zero emission vehicles on the road by 2030 and 250,000 charging stations by 2025.

As more and more funding becomes available for zero transmission projects, these proposed charging stations could be just the beginning.

"It's going to really expand. We are talking with different privately-owned gas stations that are interested in putting them in," said Linda Urata, a regional planner for Kern Council of Governments who focuses on electric vehicles. "You're going to see huge growth in the next two years."

Lately, charging options have increased for electric vehicle owners. In January, the state Department of Transportation opened nine new stations throughout the Central Valley, including one at the Tejon Pass and in Delano and the city of McFarland recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new station.

More are planned for cities such as Arvin, Wasco and Shafter. But questions remain about how popular the charging stations will be. Kern COG Executive Director Ahron Hakimi described demand for the products as a "chicken and egg" scenario. Consumers may be more liable to buy an electric vehicle if more charging stations were available, but more charging stations might not be built without the purchase of more vehicles.

"In the three years that I owned the Chevy Volt, I think I charged it, other than home, less than five times. That gives you an example of how many chargers are out there," he said. "If we want as a society more EVs, than we absolutely have to invest in more places to charge."

The city plans to watch how often each charging station is used to determine if more are necessary.

"It's a trial project," said Assistant Public Works Director Stuart Patteson. "I'm sure they will get used. The intent is for them to be entered into whatever databases exist that direct people to EV charging stations, but until we have them in place for a while, it's hard to say how well they will be utilized."

©2021 The Bakersfield Californian, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.