It’s time for Santa Monica residents to go electric and dump the pump! Now that there are dozens of compelling electric vehicles on the market with prices comparable to equivalent gas cars, more residents are switching to the cleaner, better choice. 

But where to charge your EV? It’s an especially critical question in Santa Monica, where approximately 70% of us live in multifamily housing. But if at-home charging is not an option, there are more than 200 public charging stations in Santa Monica. 

You will also be happy to know that California has been working for years to remove barriers to EV charging for those who don’t live in single-family homes. Such residents usually have no problem installing a charger, just as they might put in a new heat pump or windows. But some landlords and Home Owners Associations have been known to limit renters and condo owners from setting up the simple station they need to “fill ‘er up” at home, even though they are paying for this electricity. 

In response, the California legislature passed AB 1796 and SB 638. The two bills make it possible for all renters and condo owners who have a dedicated parking space to install an EV charging station as long as the resident pays for it. If these conditions are met, no HOA or landlord can say “no.” 

To make it even easier, Southern California Edison provides rebates for any SCE customer who buys an EV, new or used. Even better, the city’s Electrify Santa Monica Rebate Program will provide up to $2,000 to install an EV charger in a multi-family building or up to $3,000 for those who qualify as low-income. By combining these two incentives, most residents can cover the entire cost of installation. You can find additional resources on the city’s new EV webpage (https://santamonica.gov/topic-explainers/electric-vehicles). 

Before you buy or lease your EV, it’s a good idea to make your home charger-ready by following these simple steps:

1. Decide what level of charging works best for you: Level 1 (L1) or Level 2 (L2). An L1 charge is provided by a standard 120-volt outlet (think of your toaster) and typically does not entail added equipment or cost. An L2 charge requires a 240-volt outlet (typically used for clothing dryers) and requires additional investment in a charging unit plus the cost of adding conduit, obtaining a permit and hiring an electrical contractor. An L1 plug will give you about four miles of range for every hour of charging and an L2 will provide about five times that. If your car is parked overnight for at least 10 hours and you don’t typically drive more than 40 miles a day (which most do not), an L1 supplemented by the occasional trip to a fast charger station (see below) may suffice. If not, L2 may be a better option. 

2. Check with your property manager to see if the electrical capacity you need for your new charger is available. (You’ll only need to tell them whether you’re using L1 or L2.) If power is not available, an electrical panel upgrade, which would increase costs, may be needed. In some cases, new electricity-load management technologies can mitigate the need for an upgrade.

3. Apply for your rebate through the City’s Electrify Santa Monica Rebate Program described above. 

4. Select your charging equipment. Common choices include the ClipperCreek HCS-40, the JuiceBox Pro 40, the Siemens VersiCharge and the ChargePoint Home Flex. “Smart” chargers, such as the JuiceBox and ChargePoint stations, are Wi-Fi-connected and can monitor charge rates and energy use from a phone or computer.  If you don’t drive much, an L1 smart outlet such as the PlugZio device may be a great low-cost alternative, especially if your electrical panel capacity is limited. 

5. Hire an electrical contractor. They will obtain a permit and install the station. You’ll receive your local rebate after completing all required program steps and submitting documentation. Don’t forget to contact SCE about their rebate, too.

Another alternative to home charging that may work for some is public fast charging. This involves Level 3 charging stations, which can provide a full charge in 15-45 minutes, depending on the EV. Although perhaps not as convenient as home charging, public fast chargers in Santa Monica currently number 18, with Tesla planning some 60 more and EVgo installing 24 more in downtown Santa Monica. These, along with the city’s 150-plus L2 public chargers, can be found on the EV community’s favorite charger-map app, PlugShare. 

Either way — charging at home or in public — you’ll never have to go to a gas station or worry about skyrocketing gas prices again. Just plug in and go. Plus, EVs require less maintenance than gas-powered vehicles (no more oil changes or smog checks!). Read more about additional benefits to switching to an EV at https://www.cleanfuelreward.com/why-buy-electric-vehicle/electric-car-benefits.  

For help choosing an EV, visit ElectricForAll.org or the Electric Vehicle Shopping Guide and Much More (https://www.facebook.com/EVShoppingGuide). The latter is a new Facebook page we started that features a multitude of helpful resources, including more rebates and incentives, plus the chance to communicate with EV experts and newbies alike.

Paul Scott is a co-founder of Plug In America and serves on the City of Santa Monica’s electric vehicle infrastructure subcommittee @sunpwrd Zan Dubin-Scott is a co-founder of Plug In America and co-founder of National Drive Electric Week @zandubinscott