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.
“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.”