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More power for electric vehicles?

An electric car takes on power at a San Francisco charging station. (Photo: Shutterstock)

It may soon become a lot easier for California drivers to get plugged in.

Legislation on Gov. Brown’s desk would allow city officials and private property owners to install charging stations for electric vehicles on curbsides of public streets. Brown has until Oct. 15 to sign the bill, veto it or let it become law without his signature.

The measure was introduced by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, D-Rolling Hills Estates, to increase the number of charging stations in cities, including Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to Muratsuchi aide Brady McCarthy.

Four out of five EV owners currently charge their cars at home. Boosting the number of public charging stations likely would encourage a greater use of EVs.

In part, the bill was prompted by the increasing popularity of electric vehicles, or EVs, in California: Some 244,000 electric vehicles were sold in the state from 2011 to 2016, more than three times the rest of the nation combined.

McCarthy said AB 1452 would add many electric charging stations to curbside parking where there are now regular parking spaces. Four out of five EV owners currently charge their cars at home, and boosting the number of public charging stations likely would encourage a greater use of EVs – a key piece in the fight against climate-changing greenhouse gases.

The bill would give cities the ability to regulate electric vehicle parking in municipal lots that they own and authorize people with curbside parking spots to designate spaces for charging or parking electric vehicles.

“This bill is intended to facilitate the expansion of electric vehicle parking in public streets, in open areas and local municipalities,” McCarthy said.

Muratsuchi’s measure allows cities, counties and residents to decide whether they wish to set up designated areas for electrical vehicles, and leaves it to them  to establish phase-in periods to alert the public to the changes.

Many vehicles in Rolling Hills Estates, Muratsuchi’s home city, are still gasoline-powered, although there has been an increase in electric cars in recent years.

The city of Los Angeles recently published a citywide plan that proposes an expansion of at least 1,000 electric vehicle charging stations on its public streets.

McCarthy said that the law also would allow local municipalities to designate how those parking spaces will be regulated, including posting proper signs and ticketing vehicles if they’re not utilizing the EV-specific spaces properly.

Similar to other common public curbside parking rules, vehicles — electric or conventional — would get fined if they’ve exceeded the time limit, and gas- or diesel-powered vehicles would be ticketed if they’re parked at a charging spot. The cities would also tow vehicles violating these parking rules.

“These regulations will give more spaces to electric vehicle owners to park and charge,” McCarthy said. “Hopefully along the way would convince more people to drive these (types of vehicles).”

He also said that although many vehicles in Rolling Hills Estates, Muratsuchi’s home city, are still gasoline-powered, there has been an increase in electric cars in recent years, prompting the Assemblymember to introduce AB1452.

The legislative analyst said that there’s no  cost to the state  with the bill, but  it’s at the discretion of local authorities to determine how much money should be allotted to this new effort and to choose how many charging stations to install based upon the availability of spaces and the residents’needs.

“The city has been actively seeking to promote itself and electric vehicles and to increase charging infrastructure.” Jennifer Venema, Sacramento

In June, Sacramento  City Councilmember Jay Schenirer, who represents  Oak Park, sent a letter to the governor on behalf of the city  showing support for AB1452.

Schenirer said in the letter that his city has been “working actively” to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure for years, but lacks the authority and opportunities to “dedicate and enforce” spaces exclusively for on-street electric charging.

“Visibility of charging infrastructure in the public right-of-way testifies to the legitimacy and viability of EVs,” Schenirer wrote in the letter, “and speaks to the commitment of government to support their use.”

Jennifer Venema, the city’s sustainability manager, said that as the city  grows, legislation like AB 1452 would only increase  the city’s appeal for eco-friendly, on-the-go residents, especially downtown, where the city is planning for  a new hospital, new transit-focused development and at least 10,000 more residents.

“The city has been actively seeking to promote itself and electric vehicles and to increase charging infrastructure,” Venema said. “We believe that AB1452 will help us achieve these goals and missions.”

She also said that the bill is a great opportunity to build community awareness and provide a significant educational opportunity — all with the hope of encouraging more people to drive electric vehicles.

The governor’s Executive Order  would increase  to 1.5 million the number of zero-emission vehicles on the roads by 2025.

The city currently does not have specific plans to fully implement the legislation, and the costs associated with AB 1452 are focused on paying city’s employees  to regulate public parking and transportation.

However, there’s a possible way for cities like Sacramento to make money from AB 1452: towing fees.

“I think that these California cities can make money by towing violating vehicles,” said Hannah Goldsmith, project manager of the California Electric Transportation Coalition (CalETC), a Sacramento-based non-profit.

CalETC  also sent a letter to the governor on Sept. 11 showing support for AB 1452.

“More tows can mean more money for cities,” she said.

Goldsmith said AB 1452 should help California reach many of its current goals, including the governor’s Executive Order  to increase  to 1.5 million the number of zero-emission vehicles on the roads by 2025 and Senate Bill 32 to reduce the greenhouse gas emission to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“The biggest barrier to reach widespread electric transportation, which is (CalETC’s) goal, relies heavily on consumer’s understanding, adequate incentives for driving an electric vehicle and adequate charging stations to make their lives easier,” Goldsmith said. “And one of the biggest reasons why CalETC supports this bill is because we see charging infrastructure serves as its own educational outreach to the community.”

CalETC and the city of Sacramento join a list of supporters for the bill that includes Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, ChargePoint and Southern California Edison.

No opposition groups were verified by the bill, although 29 Assemblymembers and 12 senators voted “No” on the bill. None was immediately available for comment.

Assembly Bill 1452 was sent to the governor on Sept. 12.

Ed’s Note: Vu Chau is a journalism student at California State University, Sacramento.

 


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