San Francisco to provide free electric car power until end of 2013 

Electric-vehicle chargers will be made available free of charge at city-owned parking garages and at San Francisco International Airport until the end of 2013, Mayor Ed Lee’s office will announce today.

The nearly 90 new plug-ins are designed to provide a “top-off” supplement for the home chargers of electric-car owners, who now make up only a small fraction of The City’s total traffic. Three hours of charging time could return 80 percent of the power to the battery of a Nissan Leaf; it would be completely full in about six hours, officials say.

Installation is set to begin next month, and all of the new stations should be in place by year’s end. The Mayor’s Office hopes the charging stations will reduce drivers’ “range anxiety” that comes from the newly available models that are completely dependent on batteries and carry an 80- to 100-mile limit.

Bob Hayden, the clean transportation adviser at the San Francisco Department of the Environment, said the program’s goal is to continue reduction of The City’s carbon emissions. If The City must have cars, it’s better that they run on electricity, he said.

“We can call it experimental, yes,” Hayden said. “It’s going to help us learn how much [charging stations] are needed and how frequently they’re used.”

The $300,000 bill for the new program is being footed by a combination of federal, state and local grants, including one from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. In February, that body granted $3.9 million to four companies to install public charging stations, along with $700 supplements for those who want home chargers.

In all, the money is set to provide the Bay Area with 2,750 new chargers, including 30 public “fast chargers,” which can juice an electric car battery in 30 to 45 minutes. In addition, grants from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission last year include money to establish a fleet of battery-powered taxis.

A news release from the Mayor’s Office said the efforts are aimed at taking San Francisco’s greenhouse gas levels to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The release also said the transportation sector generates one-third of those gases and that cars and trucks account for 90 percent.

Lee said in the release that he hopes electric vehicle drivers can “build confidence in the new technology.” The Mayor’s Office said other locations, including public libraries, are being explored in addition to the parking garages.

Lee is continuing the charge of former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who set out to make San Francisco a leader among cities that support electric car technology.

Electric vehicles rolled into car lots earlier this year with mass availability of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, and the Silicon Valley-based Tesla Motors also set to enter the mainstream market with its Roadster.

“The idea is that in within five years, 10 percent of cars sold will be electric,” Hayden said.

Plugged in

Where The City plans to have electric-car charging stations:

  • Civic Center garage
  • Ellis O’Farrell garage
  • Fifth & Mission garage
  • General Hospital garage
  • Golden Gateway garage
  • Japan Center garage
  • Lombard garage
  • Mission Bartlett garage
  • Moscone Center garage
  • North Beach garage
  • Performing Arts garage
  • Pierce Lombard garage
  • Polk Bush garage
  • Portsmouth Square garage
  • SFO garages
  • St. Mary’s Square garage
  • 1600 Mission Street garage
  • Stockton Sutter garage
  • Union Square garage
  • Vallejo Street garage

Source: San Francisco Department of the Environment

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