Kate Cagle
Daily Press Staff Writer

The City Council will review a plan Tuesday to add 200 public charging ports for electric vehicles (EVs) to the city by 2020, with a long-term goal of having 1,000 public ports by 2025.

The infrastructure improvements required to create the stations is estimated to cost $2.42 million over three years, with net new costs at $1.46 million.

City staff has estimated the annual operating cost to be around $500,000, not including the cost of electricity.
Only about 2 percent of drivers in Santa Monica own EVs, according to a draft of the Electric Vehicle Action Plan.

Raising that percentage will help the City reach its goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, since cars currently produce 64 percent of the local carbon footprint.

“Increasingly, competition for charging stations between City vehicles and resident vehicles has generated tension in the electric vehicle community,” according to the 112-page plan.

“Limited road way and curb space for the many users creates competition that will be amplified by the necessary actions of designating EV charging spaces.

By the end of the year, the city will have about 100 charging stations, most of which are in frequent use. City Hall is constantly receiving requests to add more stations.

“Dedicated EV drivers who cannot charge at home resort to using public infrastructure at all hours, planning their schedules around charging.

Others have resorted to using extension cords that often run from building windows or garages across the public right-of-way,” the report says.

Former City Councilman and Chair of Clean Drive Santa Monica Kelly-Richard Olsen knows all about that tension.

His Mid-City apartment does not have a parking space, much less an EV charger, so Olsen drives to Virginia Avenue Park every night to use one of just four chargers near his home.

He either walks the mile back to his house or sits in his car during the two hours it takes to charge his car.

“It’s extraordinarily difficult and almost impossible for a resident who lives in a multifamily building to charge their car,” Olsen said. “They’re not going to go through the hoops like I do.”

Olsen says the environmental benefits of driving electric are worth the sacrifice he makes to keep it running.

He also enjoys the benefits of charging for free at the public stations.

City staff has suggested charging EV drivers for using the public stations in order to help pay for the program.

At this point, none of the public charging stations in Santa Monica are equipped with technology to charge fees for time, electricity or overstay penalties.

Nearly 70 percent of the 210 public agencies in California that provide EV plug-ins charge a fee for usage, usually based on energy consumption.

According to the proposed plan, the Council will have a chance to review a proposed fee structure after 25 public smart charging stations have been installed and operating for 90 days.

Staff will analyze usage and behavior to come up with the fees.

Olsen hopes the City will continue to incentivize EVs by only charging residents for the cost of the electricity.

In addition to the new charging stations, City staff is recommending appointing an EV Program Coordinator to oversee the stations.

“Similar to the Breeze Bike Share program, the City’s growing network of EV charging stations will need diligent planning, operations and management in order to operate successfully,” reads a staff report prepared by sustainability analyst Garrett Wong.


Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press