America’s Largest EV Charging Network Coming From PG&E


Pacific Gas & Electric is one of the largest utilities in California. It recently got unanimous approval from the state public utilities commission to install 7,500 EV chargers in its service area, which includes San Francisco and most of central and northern California. Governor Jerry Brown wants 1.5 million electric cars on the road by 2025. PG&E says it will need 100,000 EV charging stations in its service area to support that many electric cars.

EV charging network

“The savings that people can harness from using this type of vehicle, as opposed to a gasoline powered vehicle, it’s a very real per-month savings,” said Commissioner Catherine Sandoval, shortly before the vote. “Having the infrastructure available so people can make those choices is critical.”

The EV charging stations will be located throughout the PG&E service area. The program will pay particular attention to apartment houses and other multi-family communities where the number of chargers available is severely limited at the present time. In addition, 15% of the EV chargers will be located in poorer communities. Low income people often drive the oldest and highest polluting cars because they have no other options.

California has launched several experimental efforts to make electric cars and advanced hybrids more accessible to families with limited incomes. Families in the Central Valley can obtain a voucher for $9,500 when they trade in an older car for a new or used electric car or plug-in hybrid. Many electric cars like the Nissan LEAF have poor resale value, so a voucher like that could make it possible for families who qualify to give up their old gasoline powered car for a clean electric car for little or no money out of pocket.  Joel Espino, legal counsel with the Greenlining Institute, a racial justice group says, “I think we’re going to see a huge jump in EV adoption in low income communities and communities of color.”

Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the program, which will add about 22 cents per month to the electric bill of all 5 million PG&E customers. “PG&E should not be spending ratepayers’ hard-earned dollars to finance a risky business experiment that won’t improve anything for most consumers,” said Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network consumer group, in an email. Such political considerations convinced the PUC to exclude more expensive DC fast charging stations from the plan. Those chargers trend to be utilized by people travelling longer distances. The PG&E plan is focused more on helping people get to work and back.

PG&E will be allowed to own up to 35% of the charging stations, while the rest will be owned by building owners or third parties. “We look forward to partnering with charging service providers to increase access to EVs to drivers and communities that haven’t previously had the option,” says company spokeswoman Ari Vanrenen. “This critical infrastructure will jump-start the EV market with greater access to safe, reliable, affordable and clean electricity.”

Initially, PG&E proposed building a much larger network of chargers. It wanted the PUC to approve a plan that would have cost $654 million and installed 25,000 chargers across its territory. Consumer advocates, however, balked at the program’s size and questioned its basic fairness. Only about 100,000 PG&E customers drive electric cars or plug-in hybrids, according to the company. That’s more than any other utility, but it represents a only a small fraction of PG&E customers.

Source: SF Gate

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I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • Rafael Formisano

    Most of the car owners use the car as a commuter. If they live in a house, where they can charge the car an EV is perfect for them, but if they live in an apartment complex the only way an EV fit them is, if they have a charger in the complex or at work.
    This is going to help a lot of people buy a cheap used EV (with the same miles they are cheaper than the ICE equivalent) and save money in gas and maintenance

  • MikeM

    And, of course, we have:

    “PG&E should not be spending ratepayers’ hard-earned dollars to
    finance a risky business experiment that won’t improve anything for most
    consumers,” said Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform
    Network consumer group

    Well, darned right I say.
    I still haven’t got over them sending Christopher Columbus over here at vast expense with no visible benefit to taxpayers!!
    Grumble . . grumble.

    • Steve Hanley

      You have a finely honey sense of irony, Mike. I like it!

  • Laura James

    “PG&E will be allowed to own up to 35% of the charging stations,
    while the rest will be owned by building owners or third parties”

    I am one of those city apartment dwellers who currently cannot charge their car at home. Although I have a garage space and there is a 110 plug less than 10 feet from my parking space I am not allowed to pay for it’s use to charge my car. I offered 2-3x the cost of charging based on my charging habits for the year I’ve had the vehicle and was turned down. I offered to buy a charging station if the building would install a 240 outlet for it. Management answer: A resounding NO.
    Despite these difficulties I still like my electric car. What I don’t like however, is a privatization scheme. I don’t know where to find the specifics of the PG&E plan but it sounds like they will install less in the public commons and seek to be given permission to install these stations in potentially inaccessible places with usurious rates to charge.
    In particular I have seen that private parties in San Francisco likes to install them in for pay parking garages where you have to pay for the charge and the parking while charging. That is common and makes fuel for the electric vehicle more expensive than gasoline. Privatization of the charger network will give landlords and other business owners the ability to place them so they are inaccessible and/or allow them to charge anything they like for the privilege.
    Finally, in my experience in the privatized 3rd party market, free charging stations are not maintained. Private ones are often not maintained/working either. Cities give tax breaks to 3rd party private companies to install free chargers but again don’t maintain them. All this leaves EV owners in the lurch. After installation the private EV charger companies only pay lip service to reports of non maintenance, and the 3rd party private companies installing them pass the buck.
    My vision of a “common good” EV charging infrastructure is to install them on the sidewalks in front of parking spaces and in other free and publicly accessible areas. Why not use city land to install banks of chargers for many vehicles? PG&E and other 3rd parties should be compelled to earn their tax breaks by being responsible for keeping the chargers maintained.
    If more EVs on the road are desired then the charging infrastructure should not be privatized and the responsibility for charger maintenance cannot be left to private business who has no incentive beyond their tax breaks to keep them up and working. Not only that but I question the commitment PG&E has to the public good in this proposal .