WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa leads charge on electric car stations

City installs 13 charging areas, many open to public for a fee, to prepare for fall launch of vehicles


General Motors may have killed the electric car, but Santa Rosa hopes to give it a new lease on life.

A city program to install electric vehicle charging stations aims to ensure that when all-electric cars hit the market again this fall, the city has the infrastructure to help them live up to their potential.

“Ten years ago, when they first started selling electric cars, the chargers were kind of an afterthought,” said Jon Merian, the city’s fleet superintendent. “Now they’re getting the infrastructure in place first.”

City electricians have spent several weeks installing 13 charging stations at city facilities around town, many of which will be available for public use. The stations were funded by a $100,000 federal grant backed by stimulus funds.

Eight are in easily accessible locations. Two were installed at City Hall last week. Five others have been put in downtown city garages, and another is planned for a parking area near Railroad Square.

“For this to work, it has to be convenient for users,” Merian said.

Several government agencies in Sonoma County have had charging stations over the years for their own small fleets of electric vehicles. But the new stations have one key feature past ones have lacked — they’ll charge you to charge.

Made by Coulomb Technologies of San Jose, the ChargePoint stations are designed to charge customers for the electricity they use to reenergize their batteries. The city hasn’t yet decided the cost, but expects to work that out soon.

The stations now are only equipped with 110-volt plugs, which means it would take as long as eight hours to fully charge a Nissan Leaf. But upgrades to Level 2 charging, which uses 220 volts and will cut charging times substantially, are around the corner, Merian said.

Chris Jones, an electrical engineer at Agilent and an electric vehicle buff, said he was thrilled to learn the city is making the stations accessible to the public.

“I’m ecstatic, elated,” Jones said. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”

Public charging stations solve a key gap in the electric vehicle infrastructure, he said. All-electric vehicle owners will charge primarily at their homes, but to be practical for longer trips, the vehicles need convenient places to be recharged.

“Our club has 60 members throughout Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties, and I regularly get asked, ‘I want to come to Santa Rosa, where can I charge?’ And I say, ‘Well, you can charge at my house,’ ” said Jones, who converted his 1966 Ford Mustang to an all-electric vehicle that gets 45 miles to a charge.

One of the features of the 5,000 ChargePoint stations planned for across the nation is that they would be networked together, allowing customers to check availability from the Internet.

The units are locked when not in use, and open when an account holder waves a key card in front of them. The card holder is charged for the electricity used, and the company reimburses the city 80 percent, keeping the remainder for administrative costs, Merian said.

Sonoma County government also has installed several such stations around its administration center, primarily for its own fleet.

The Sonoma County Water Agency was spearheading a push last year to win a grant that would have covered all nine cities, but that effort didn’t pan out. Santa Rosa kept at it, and snared a different grant for itself.

“I absolutely applaud the City of Santa Rosa for their initiative and for getting the grant,” said Cordel Stillman, capital project manager for the Water Agency.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.

8 Responses to “Santa Rosa leads charge on electric car stations”

  1. Pass the Gravy Please says:

    Retire Woolsey is hilarious. I laughed hard but am afraid that it’s not a joke. What’s truly funny is that now that reasonable people have gotten the upper hand on this site, the progressives are calling foul play and that the votes are being rigged. The progressives went out on a no holds barred attack against anyone who didn’t agree with them when this site started but now the other side has pushed back and are now winning in this court of public approval.

    If our nation follows the progressive agenda we will surely become a failed state. Is that their real plan? One of their leaders speaks of rebuilding America on its ashes. Apparently, he is in favor of America being destroyed. They want to tax everything that produces carbon, even exhalations. Every progressive I know lives in a single family home, not in a smartgrowth project. Hypocrites.

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  2. John Galt says:

    This is an article that is quite encouraging. Why is Noah and his friend obsessed with opposing viewpoints instead of commenting on the truly progressive nature of Santa Rosa preparing for electric vehicles?
    Maybe it is because this is actual progress that has nothing to do with political power games?
    Why do ‘Progressives’ hate real progress?

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  3. More Progressives Please! says:

    I heard that Herb Williams and the Alliance Business PAC have some guy posting on against the current city council majority, progressives and unions on this board under various aliases each day…wouldn’t suprise me a bit…

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  4. Noah says:

    @More Progressives, please!: I agree. This site is being hijacked by ultra-conservatives, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the true numbers of thumbs up/down weren’t being manipulated.

    Every time I think that Sonoma County has turned into a haven for low-information voters, someone does or says something that gives me hope. Therein perhaps, lies my downfall!

    My expereince is that on this site, I can get a lot of responses when I attack the far-right. I can get one or two responses when I assert left-wing opinions. But when I try to engage in a dialectical conversation, when I seek to have an exchange and pondering of honest opinions, I get no response at all. I have even asked for a meeting of the two sides and some equanimity, to little or no avail.

    What does that say about this site? And is that a true representation of Sonoma County? I don’t think it is.

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  5. Beef King says:

    This article is about our energy future. I for one am impressed at times with some of the decisions that come out of city hall.
    Not often actually, but this is certainly a glimpse at a future that is just two or three years from us now.
    Good job and thanks to the people who are making this happen.
    As for the ‘progressive’ post….well, it is ridiculous, and it’s not surprising.

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  6. chuck becker says:

    More Progressives Please!,

    How is your post any different in substance from what it criticizes?

    The only difference that I can see is that you approve of your intolerance, but disapprove of the intolerance your perceive on “the other side”.

    If I’m missing something, please let me know?


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  7. More Progressives Please! says:

    Watch Sonoma County is turning into a wing nut haven like the old PD message boards. While discussion and conflicting views are fine and stimulating, posts which call everyone a commie and label every progressive anti business and socialist are getting out of control. I can’t wait til Lynn Woolsey beats the tea party pants off Judd and these folks go back to watching fox news and posting about how much they hate immigrants and taxes on the old board.

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  8. Brown Outs Coming to a city near you…but, like I said…Green is the new Red.

    “you have surpassed your daily Kilowatt allotment Comrad…no soup for you”…

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