The city of Santa Monica will start requiring electric vehicle drivers to pay to use public charging stations for the first time to help fund almost 900 new chargers by 2025.

While charging fees have not yet been decided, the city will soon begin fining drivers for staying at charging stations beyond posted time limits, known as an overstay charge, to partially recoup the cost of operating the chargers and discourage drivers from leaving their EVs in charging spaces longer than needed. City Council unanimously approved the overstay charge and supported plans to introduce charging fees at its Tuesday meeting.

Officials said the city regularly receives complaints from EV drivers about vehicles that have been left at charging stations beyond their time limits with no incentive to move because they are not paying for the electricity and are rarely cited by parking enforcement.

“We’ve always told EV drivers you’ll get a charge out of Santa Monica, and so many have taken us up on that offer that we need to create charging turnover to provide fairer access,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown.

By late March, drivers will be charged $1 per minute for staying beyond the posted time limit (after a ten-minute grace period). The maximum charge is set at $53, which is equivalent to standard parking overstay citations. Signs and text notifications will inform drivers of the charges.

The overstay charges will be reinvested in the charging network, which currently numbers 140 chargers but will double by the end of the year. As of December 2018, about 2,700 EVs were registered in Santa Monica, about 4% of all vehicles. Officials project the number of EVs in the city to grow dramatically as they become more affordable.

Santa Monica’s EV Action Plan calls for a total of 1,000 chargers by 2025, but the city is one of the last municipalities to offer free EV charging and officials said meeting that goal will be difficult without asking users to shoulder some of the installation and operating costs.

The city will conduct a fee study based on Clean Power Alliance rates, which range from $0.04 to $0.15 kilowatts per hour, though prices can be up to $0.40 kWh during summer peak energy demand periods. CPA became the city’s default energy provider last year and charges slightly higher rates than Southern California Edison because its electricity comes from renewable sources.

City staff are looking at fee scenarios ranging from $0.20 kWh to $0.49 kWh, or $8 to $19.60 to fully charge a Nissan Leaf to $15 or $36.75 to charge a Tesla Model 3. Nearby Beverly Hills and Long Beach charge $0.25 kWh and $0.49-$0.59 kWh, respectively. Staff said rates could change depending on time-of-day energy demand.

With the 300 total chargers that will come online by the end of the year and assuming a rate of $0.25 kWh, the city would earn about $645,000 annually after covering direct operating costs of $405,000.

City Council may vote in the future to use the surplus revenue for additional chargers — a single port costs $4,500 and a dual-port costs $6,000 — and incentives for apartment and office buildings to install chargers.

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