State of the art electric car charging stations coming to Contra Costa County
by Elisabeth Nardi
Contra Costa Times
Updated: 04/04/2009 04:32:58 AM PDT
Gas prices go up, down, then back up again, but Bill Segraves doesn't care.
Most days he ignores the truck and two gas-guzzling Cadillacs in his Pleasant Hill driveway and takes his all-electric GEM to work, where he simply plugs it into the wall outlet to recharge.
He dreams of the day when all cars will be electric.
"To have no reliance on oil, no service stations ... amen," Segraves said.
That day may be getting closer. This week, San Jose-based Tesla Motors unveiled its $50,000 electric car, and the plug-in Chevy Volt is expected to hit dealerships by next year.
Walnut Creek — and possibly other cities in Contra Costa County — will be ready. Partnering with 511 Contra Costa, which promotes green transportation, Walnut Creek is installing three electric vehicle charging stations in city-owned downtown parking garages, serving 150-volt and 220-volt plug-in electric and hybrid cars.
This makes Walnut Creek the third city in the Bay Area, behind San Jose and San Francisco, to offer this kind of charging technology — all on one network, provided by Campbell-based Coulomb Technologies.
There are charging stations in various cities throughout the Bay Area, but many are for older-model electric vehicles. Coulomb's software allows drivers to log on to Google Maps from their phones or computers to find the nearest charging stations.
Bringing the charging stations to Walnut Creek will provide
opportunities for existing hybrid-electric vehicles and soon-to-be-released electric vehicles, said Matt Huffaker, business manager in the city's public services department.
"We wanted to be one of the leaders in the Bay Area," Huffaker said. "We are hoping by putting this in place it will encourage other cities to do the same." Walnut Creek doesn't have any all-electric government vehicles, but likely will within the next few years, he said.
The transportation assistance program 511 Contra Costa will pay $12,000 for the stations, and the city will pony-up $5,000 for installation.
The city won't have to pay more for electricity because that fee is covered in the cost charged to the customer; Coulomb reimburses the city for the electric costs, said Huffaker.
The stations should be installed this month, he said.
There are different rates and monthly passes offered, but for one session it will cost $3 to use over a given 24-hour period.
Lynn Overcashier, project manager at 511 Contra Costa, doesn't expect much use of the electric stations this year. But their presence may prompt more people to consider buying electric.
Other Contra Costa cities — Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, Martinez and Hercules — have expressed interest in stations, and could form one of the first charging station networks.
Tim Hastrup, Sacramento chapter leader for Electric Auto Association, said it's exciting to see municipalities and car companies jumping on board. "Like all things, it's great to have a champion. For those of us who have been doing this for awhile, we never thought we would see the day."
Kristin Gallagher at Vespa Walnut Creek said a Vectrix all-electric scooter can go anywhere from 35 to 65 miles between charges. Charging stations, she said, will make downtown even more of draw.
"It only takes three hours to completely charge the scooter — three hours ... that's lunch and shopping."