Palo Alto plans electric vehicles plug-in stations

The city and local startup Better Place both have won grants from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to build a total of 36 next-generation electric vehicle charging stations in town, the district announced this week.

The city was awarded $12,000 to help pay for six new stations in the City Hall parking garage, where it already has two older models. Better Place, a leading provider of electric vehicle services, got $30,000. The firm intends to build 30 stations at its Arastradero Road headquarters, near Interstate 280, district spokeswoman Kristine Roselius said.

Similar grants will help fund additional charging stations in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Santa Rosa and a few other Bay Area cities. The district awarded a total of $428,000 in this round of funding.

"As automakers provide more electric vehicle options, it’s important that the infrastructure is in place to support these cleaner transportation options," air district executive officer Jack Broadbent said in a statement. "Air District grants for charging stations will make electric cars a viable option for many Bay Area residents."

The grant will cover about a third of Palo Alto’s cost to build the new stations, said Debra van Duynhoven, the city’s sustainability manager. The city is waiting on another grant application, to the California Energy Commission, before it can install the devices.

A spokesman for Better Place said the company had no comment on its plans at this point. The startup announced last month that it received $350 million in equity financing to further its goal of creating electric vehicles grids in several regions around the world, including the Bay Area.

Many electric vehicle owners plug their electric cars in at home. But van Duynhoven said she does occasionally see electric cars parked at the city’s two existing charging stations, where they pay by the hour. The new stations would be designed to rapidly charge the new crop of electric vehicles scheduled to hit the market in the next two years, she said.

"Electric vehicles are really in their infancy," van Duynhoven said. "Part of this would be a pilot program to see whether they’d be useful downtown. Part of it is a bit of a research project to understand their usage and the need to install them."

As home to Better Place and future home to Tesla, Palo Alto officials believe their city is poised to become a hotspot for electric cars. Last year city staff began studying how a plug-in vehicle boom could affect the municipal electricity grid.

By Will Oremus,

The average U.S. car is parked 23 hours per day. If most charge off-peak and only 20 percent are available for V2G (Vehicle to Grid) at any given time, V2G will be a major contributor in energy security and more affordable electricity. An electric car might have 24 kWh stored in its lithium batteries. Vehicles can be charged at night whit excess wind energy.