Electric vehicle charging network expands to help Marin, Napa, Solano, Contra Costa commuters
Marin Clean Energy is continuing to expand its network of electric vehicle charging stations, flipping the switch on a 10-port, solar-powered facility a half block from the San Rafael downtown transit hub.
The new $240,000 facility is part of the company’s plan to expand the number of public and private EV charging stations throughout its territory, which includes 34 communities in Marin, Napa, and portions of Solano and Contra Costa counties.
MCE acquires power from alternative sources and, under the community choice aggregation program, sells that power to users, distributing it to them through Pacific Gas & Electric’s system.
The nonprofit has funded or supported plans for 644 ports in 2018 at workplaces, in apartment building garages and parking lots. Of this total, 83 ports are currently installed. Another 600 ports are in the MCE pipeline to be funded this year.
Funding is coming from a variety of sources, including 60% of the premiums from MCE’s Deep Green 100% renewable energy customer service plan that will go into the company’s fund for new site buildouts.
Other sources include a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Transportation Authority of Marin, PG&E funding (for sites with 10 or more EV charging ports) and Electrify America.
“Our decision to install publicly-available charging ports was influenced by an EPA-funded study of our service area showing a significant gap in the region’s overall charging infrastructure,” said MCE CEO Dawn Weisz. “Over the past year, our EV charging program and our own investments in workplace charging have contributed to closing that gap by over 40%.”
In the past, EV charging sites have been located along routes to getaway destinations such as rural wineries in the North Bay, at coastal resorts or on highways to Tahoe.
“We have to walk before we can run and remove barriers along the way,” Weisz said. “For us, the holy grail is moving behavior associated with EV charging to locations at both ends of the commute spectrum for employees by first by enlisting businesses to install workplace systems, as well as to convince developers and owners of multifamily unit housing to do the same.”
Providing enough EV charging sites is a crucial step to ease potential EV buyers’ “range anxiety” about not being able to return home, or find a recharging station, after exceeding the average range of their electric vehicles.
Published data from 23 car manufacturers of highway-capable (above 50 mph) EVs with production batteries show the average distance per charge is 162 miles. That ranges from a low of 62 miles (Chery QQ3 EV) to a high of 370 miles (Tesla Model S). Tesla has half the U.S. EV market.
In the past, drivers of fossil fueled vehicles had to rely on road signs indicating service stations nearby. Now EV owners rely on special apps to tell them where the nearest charging stations are located. These apps are available from ChargePoint, Tesla Destination Charger, EVgo Charging Stations, Plug Share, Charge Hub and other vendors, such as the Blink Network.
MCE’s new San Rafael public solar EV charge location, installed by Sausalito-based American Solar Corporation, uses an 80-kilowatt photovoltaic system to power 10 Level 2 EV charging stations along with two disability-accessible ports with reduced height and greater accessibility of the charging equipment.
Users can pay for an EV charge by photographing a QR Code with a Smartphone at the paystation gaining access to a Green Lot link to checking or savings accounts; by obtaining a Green Lot RFID card, or by using a credit or debit card. The EV recharging fee depends on the season and time of day. For a totally depleted battery during a workday, the recharging fee would be between $4 and $6.
The company offers a $3,500 rebate for low-income qualifying customers to purchase or lease either a new or used EV. Another rebate is available for those with low incomes to help pay for rooftop solar systems. In addition, MCE has rebate programs for EV charging stations designed to help workplace and multi-family properties save at least 50% on hardware and installation costs.
MCE’s Deep Green 100% renewable energy service plan will support energy needs with a mix of 50% California wind and 50% solar. After sunset, MCE’s cheaper Light Green service (50% renewable energy) is available. The company also offers a 100% local solar energy plan from a new solar farm in Novato that offers a 20-year flat rate. Customers can also opt out and purchase PG&Es standard 33% renewable energy generation service or elect to take one of their other options.
In 2019, MCE’s estimated in-state energy procurement resource mix includes 3% hydroelectric, 4% geothermal, 4% biomass or landfill gas, 9% conventional, 22% solar, 25% wind and 33% large hydro power. Conventional power is scheduled to be reduced to zero by 2028.
Sixty long-term, 12- to 25-year contracts have been signed by MCE with more than 30 energy product suppliers to stabilize costs. For example, wind power is available from suppliers in the Highway 12 corridor in Solano County as well as those operating in the Altamont and Tehachapi passes.
“Our cheapest charging rate period for an electric vehicle is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., during most of the average work day,” said David Potovsky, MCE power supply contracts manager. “The San Rafael system will be running 24/7/365, meaning EV owners will not be limited to a gas station’s hours of operation.”