Demand for EV charging stations sparks high interest, conflict in Palo Alto

Refueling stations for electric vehicles are on the rise at shopping centers, companies, city garages

Rising numbers of electric vehicles in Palo Alto have put the city's public charging stations to use almost all day long and have spurred reports of "charge rage" at at least one private company that offers electric vehicle charging.

The City of Palo Alto has 10 chargers, each of them located in the City's parking garages, that can be used for free during a 3-hour time limit.

Data from the city's five "smart" chargers states that the chargers fill electric vehicle batteries for more than 14 hours per day. This is a large number, the report says, because the stations generally aren't used during the nighttime.

While the city's other five charging stations are "dumb" chargers, meaning they don't track charger-use data, parking manager Jessica Sullivan said she expects they get about the same amount of use as the city's "smart" chargers.

However, over the course of those 14 hours, there is an average of 5.4 charging sessions on each charger, meaning an average of 54 people a day are able to charge their cars.

Sullivan said she frequently gets emails from residents asking when the city will be installing more, and while the city plans to include more charging stations, it currently doesn't have the infrastructure to include more chargers in its parking garages.

"Frankly we have no additional electrical capacity to add charging stations," she said. "I don't think anyone would have guessed a few years ago that there would be so many (Tesla) Model S's driving in Palo Alto."

The Mercury News reported that the 16 charging stations at German software company SAP's Palo Alto campus are not meeting the demand of the company's 61 electric vehicle-driving employees.

"In the beginning, all of our EV drivers knew each other, we had enough infrastructure, and everyone was happy. That didn't last for long," Peter Graf, SAP's chief sustainability officer and the driver of a Nissan Leaf, told the Mercury News. "Cars are getting unplugged while they are actively charging, and that's a problem. Employees are calling and messaging each other, saying, 'I see you're fully charged, can you please move your car?'"

In recent years, companies throughout the area have installed chargers on their properties, including Mollie Stone's Markets, Stanford Shopping Center and local hotels.


Posted by OwnALeaf, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:23 am

First, in the spirit of full disclosure, I own a Leaf. With that said, ...

EV owners should not expect that the City will be installing (more) charging stations for public use - whether free or pay. Whereas it is nice, and certainly convenient, it is not the city's responsibility! Else the City would be installing and operating its own gasoline stations in order to serve the greater portion of its citizens.

Instead, encourage retailers and developers to include them. As an example of what I think is a good idea currently, look at the EV parking next to the new Safeway at San Antonio Road and El Camino Real. There are only a few charging stations, but a dozen or more parking spaces just for EV. Makes it easy to charge your vehicle, then move it to one of the reserved spaces when completed so someone else can charge up.

I anticipate that charging technology and pricing policies will develop soon to address the problems of staying connected after being fully charged. Perhaps free or minimal charging fees followed by very expensive 'parking fee' for the time an EV is connected beyond the point it is fully charged.

Posted by Karen, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:28 am

I think it is a bit silly to say who "would have guessed a few years ago that there would be so many (Tesla) Model S's driving in Palo Alto." We know people who recently bought Chevy Volts and Leafs. This is the future, this isn't all about the ultra-rich. Our City should be in the forefront of making charging stations available. Hopefully all these electric cars are just the beginning of a national trend. STEP UP Palo Alto!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2014 at 11:33 am

I strongly object to my taxes going towards providing free charges for vehicles. They should be on a meter with a credit card reader and the charge should cost as much as it costs to deliver the charge.

There's no such thing as a free lunch, or a free charge. A free charge just means that I am paying rather than the vehicle owner!

Posted by Misha, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2014 at 1:21 pm

For the sake of parity and equal treatment, would the City please install complimentary gas pumps so I can fill up my hybrid vehicle.

Posted by Jeff, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2014 at 1:29 pm

The city should provide free breakfast and dinner to bicyclists so that they can charge up their motors.

The city should provide free wide band internet so that people can make fewer trips.

Supporting one specific technology is simply a bad policy for a city government.

Posted by jerry99, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm

Let these [portion removed] walk to where they are going and be really green. No charging stations in Palo Alto

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:34 pm

'Charge rage' haha. Just the latest aspect of the entitlement mentality so prevalent around here. Me first! (the roads and highways...) How 'bout counting your blessings occasionally.

Posted by Abusers, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:34 am

I have had my EV unplugged in favor of a Tesla that is parked nearly ALL day, EVERY day, in the garage on Cambridge. My EV was there for an hour and was not fully charged,so it was mainly just rude to do such a thing.

This is a three hour zone and this abusive Tesla owner exceeds the limit every day....others have complained about him as well, but after this particular offense, I called the PAPD with the license number and filed a formal complaint. This guy should be charging at home, at night for the bulk of his charging needs, as we do. Those public chargers are for topping off only, not all day use.

I hope the guy got a whopping fine, but he probably got off easy.

Posted by Regular driver, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2014 at 9:53 am

I drive a regular car. I want free gas from the city.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Abusers, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Regular driver: I attend yoga classes nearby at various times of the day! seven days per week! and this tesla with this plate number is always there. Other people who work/shop/attend classes in the vicinity have mentioned that this car is there 6-8 horse per day, every day.

Posted by CNG Fuel Station, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm

FYI - The City of Palo Alto does own and operate a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling pump over near the Municipal Service Center by the Baylands. Users must sign up for an access card and pay for CNG pumped which is currently at $1.99/gallon equivalent.

Posted by Mark E, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2014 at 2:38 pm

It makes sense for the city to build EV charging stations, just like it makes sense for the city to build parking spaces. A charging station space makes it possible for people to use their electric car more often, just like a parking space makes it possible for anyone else to drive and park.

Electric cars will get more range in the future, but right now "range" is the one factor that makes it hard to use them more. No gas stations to fill up makes charging stations a key to more use. Cars like the Tesla Model S have a much improved range. Park, but only charge if you really need it. And, go ahead and charge $ for charging, it will probably encourage better behavior (even if it is just a dollar or two for the electricity). For those who want the city to provide free gas, I'd be for that too if it was a good thing for us and the city.

Idea that could help right now, make more EV parking spaces near the existing chargers. Right now you can't park if you aren't charging, better to allow parking but allow those that really need a charge to charge. It would be easier to switch from cars that are fully charged.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Since, according to the laws of physics, there is no energy free lunch, where does all this electricity get generated?

Posted by Your fuel. Your expense., a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 24, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Put a charging station on your house. Paying for YOUR fuel is YOUR responsibility.

Posted by Marrol, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 24, 2014 at 4:29 pm

It is not the city's nor the tax payer's responsibility. Additionally, the city should not dictate or mandate that electric capability be installed in new construction projects. On this matter, we do not need local government to dictate what people do on their own property.

Besides, they have many other budget issues to tackle before they start wasting more time and money in a pursuit they have no business getting into.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2014 at 4:32 pm

>Paying for YOUR fuel is YOUR responsibility.

I agree with that sentiment. However, where will all those vibrating electrons come from, no matter who pays for them?

There appears to be a head-in-the-sand willing ignorance about electrical generation capacities among the Palo Alto elites. Reminds me of the school kids, asked where milk comes from, and they say, "cartons at the store".

Posted by Brad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Free electricity for people who can afford electric cars? Considering that the free charging stations are in public parking garages, it stands to reason that Palo Alto residents are subsidizing electric car owners who probably do not even live in Palo Alto. Yet another sad example of just how idiotic our city leaders are.

Where do I go in City Hall to have my utility bill reimbursed, or to get cash in lieu for the gas I don't use by riding my bike to work?

Put a @($#ing meter on the charging stations, at least recoup some of the cost of this gift to those who need it the least.

Posted by Suggestions, Inc, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2014 at 8:14 pm

What about one hour of free charging ( about 30 cents worth of juice) and put the rest on a credit card, like parking lots in downtown San Jose have!?

Posted by Dave, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 24, 2014 at 9:33 pm

For those driving gas cars and trucks, I would be happy to pay for an unsubsidized electric charge for my Tesla Model S when you pay for the impact on the environment as well as the cost of two wars in the Middle East that are directly caused by driving your gas powered car.

Subsidizing electric cars is good not only for the environment and global warming (seen any rain this year?) but also our energy independence. It is good policy. It is the future. Get with it. For God sake, you live in Palo Alto, California.

Posted by Scott, a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 25, 2014 at 2:33 pm


Put an EV charging station in front of your house and let your neighbors charge their EV's at your expense. Don't like that idea, I didn't think so. If you are as concerned about the environment and oil consumption as you say, why are you not advocating for better local mass transit? That would do far more for the environment than driving yourself around in a Tesla.

Electric cars are a wonderful development, but, where do you think the electricity comes from? Most of the electricity in California, 46%, comes from coal and natural gas energy plants, 19% from nuclear, 13% from renewables and 9% from large hydro-electric dams. 13% of the electricity used in CA comes from "unspecified sources of power". Hydro-electric use is waning as smaller hydro plants are being taken off line for habitat restoration. Nuclear is also waning in CA, at the moment. Renewables can't pick of the slack, yet, which leaves natural gas or coal to pick up the difference. In case you forgot, Coal and natural gas electric generation plants pollute, but just not in your yard, somebody else's community. As an aside, concerning gasoline and US energy independence, the US exports more refined petroleum (gasoline) than it imports. Shortages are economically driven (more profits from exports than domestic sales) rather than actual supply problems.

The mining and processing of the myriad of rare earth elements and light weight materials absolutely necessary for the powerful magnets, related electronics, and light weight construction of your Tesla require tremendous amounts of energy and water. Many/most of the high tech materials in your car probably come from mining operations in China and Africa. China is restricting export of their high tech materials for internal consumption leaving Africa as the likely source of many of the rare materials in your car. What sort of environmental protections do you suppose are in force there? Probably none, but it's somebody else's problem, isn't it. Further, the environmental life cycle impact of electric vehicles is expected to be no better, or even worse than for conventional gasoline cars, directly due to the exotic and sometimes hazardous materials electric cars currently require.

Have you really considered the impact of your Tesla beyond the subsidized charging time you think you are entitled to?

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2014 at 3:12 pm


The city has said that all electricity purchased is "carbon neutral" through it's Palo Alto Green program, so all electrons from coal fire and natural gas plants are stopped at the Palo Alto City border. So when Dave plugs in his Telsa for a recharge, the utility department calls over to the wind turbine farm over a Pacheco Pass and has them flip on another wind turbine, or they call over to the solar panel farm in the desert to uncover another panel. Of course once Dave finishes charging, the utility department calls the farm to cover or deactivate the solar panel.

Of course if Dave is charging at night, the city buys carbon offsets, so no more carbon is produced.

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2014 at 9:10 pm

The slow chargers around town are useless. In order to sell gas in California, every gas station should be required to maintain at least two functional quick chargers. They don't have to be free, they just have to be there and functional. If one could get charged rapidly at as many places as one can buy gas range anxiety would be over.

Posted by SteveU, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2014 at 10:24 am

SteveU is a registered user.

I think Midtown has a good idea. This should Not be the ONLY solution.

IMHO Public Lot Chargers need to:
1) pay for themselves (from a usage fee), as well as the Electricity used.
2) have a parking spot time limit, just like any other city parking space (just a new meaning for 'The Green Zone')

Private lot Parking (including FEE based):
Provide sufficient Charging stations (fast charge) and/or Dedicated circuit Outlets (slow: 120V charge) for the clients/users .

The definition of 'sufficient' is: available 80% of the normal parking day hours. Peaks happen, but all cases, there must be a 'No charge Available' log, that is reviewed by the City compliance division.

This can be met by having a Valet charge parked cars to the next available charger, so by the end of the parking period, all vehicles have been charged. Fees for Priority service are to be permitted

Posted by Leafy, a resident of another community
on Jan 26, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I charge my Leaf in my garage. Power comes from solar panels. I think EV drivers should pay for charges in public places. Chargers in gas stations is a great idea.

Posted by EV owner, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm


Litte to no electricity in the western states comes from coal according to the operator of the grid we are on.

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 26, 2014 at 5:05 pm

>Litte to no electricity in the western states comes from coal according to the operator of the grid we are on.

EV Owner, please provide your source for that statement. Then please tell us how much comes from large hydro (non renewable, according to the state of California). Then from nuclear. Followed by solar and wind. Then explain any displacement issues (that the western states grab most of the non-carbon sources, and that forces other states to use carbon-based fuels).

One more question: Does milk come from cartons at the store?

Posted by Ev owner, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2014 at 7:04 pm


I already explained it to you in another thread in July. Need it repeated?

Posted by Craig Laughton, a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 26, 2014 at 7:20 pm

>Craig, I already explained it to you in another thread in July. Need it repeated?

EV owner: Yes, please. Repetition is necessary on forums such as this. I find myself obligated to do it, though I don't like it, on occasion.

Please provide your sources, and defend them. You might even want to consider using your real name, just to add some gravitas, though I won't hold it against you, if you don't have it in you.

Posted by SRB, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Charge rage?
Palo Alto's never-ending quest to become an even better parody of itself continues.

Posted by Ev owner, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2014 at 7:46 am

Web Link

Please look for "it's an opinion piece". I provide pointers to the data you want on Jul 9, 2013 at 10:40 am.

"Just to add some gravitas". Sorry I disagree with your opinion on that matter too, on that we will just have to disagree..

Posted by EV Owner, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:18 am

Came over to downtown the other day for dinner and was pleasantly surprised to find a FREE electric charger in the public parking garage. Had to double check to make sure it was indeed free. WOW!

However nice this was for me, I agree with folks here that the city should absolutely be charging for this service. Just having a charger in a public parking garage is luxury enough!

Posted by Ev owner, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:38 am

There are 2 people on this thread calling themself "EV Owner", just an FYI that there are two.

Posted by Leaf lover, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2014 at 1:45 pm

There is a black Tesla that is hooked up to the charger in the Cambridge Ave garage six or more hours per day. I think it belongs to someone who works or owns a Cal Ave business. he should not be exempt from the three hour limit. The meter made tickets cars on Cal Ave, why not the Cambridge garage??

Posted by Jon B, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 28, 2014 at 10:12 am

The City charges CNG vehicles for the fuel they pump at the City's facility on East Baysgore, so why not charge for electricity at City EV charging stations? $70K Teslas can often be seen at the City Hall garage sucking up free electricity, courtesy of the Palo Alto taxpayer- how is this gift of taxpayer funds to a small group even legal? If the City can recover costs by charging users, and if they have the staff to design and maintain them, fine- but it's not the City's responsibility, and shouldn't be at the top of the 'to-do' list, given all the other other backlogged infrastructure needs. If EV chargers were that easy and profitable to install, then why aren't private gas stations installing them?

Posted by Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2014 at 11:15 am

It is pretty obvious why the the gas stations are not installing them. The they are in the gasoline business. They will need a little encouragement.

Posted by Ev owner, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2014 at 2:02 pm

"If EV chargers were that easy and profitable to install..."

They are easy to install, the problem is the profit model.

If the battery on my car is empty. it costs about $1 for me to charge up my car at home. At a 240v public station it would take about 3-4 hours. Most fee chargers charge $1 per hour. If you assume that a public charger is being used 10 hours per day it will bring in a whooping $10 per day minus the electric cost and the cost of the unit. The cost to Palo Alto is low to provide them given it is its own utility company and can get its electrons cheap. Its probably not worth the cost of accounting to charge for the electrons used at the charging stations. I used to spend $150 / month in gas, I now pay $22 in electricity. I get 96 miles per "gallon" vs 20-27. Frankly I don't care if Palo Alto charges a fee, I have never used a Palo Alto charger, but I get why its not worth the city's time to bother and given that Palo Alto offers a lot of free services that most don't use and pay for, are we ready to start charging a usage fee for everything the city provides for free? I doubt it.

Posted by Joe Tesla, a resident of another community
on Jan 28, 2014 at 8:03 pm

I am very distressed that the city does not go the extra mile to encourage EV's by offering auto detailing and a morning coffee as I pull into the garage.

City govt run amok; unaccountable 'visionaries' spending other peoples money.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2014 at 8:34 pm

I think this is nonsense ... it has all the stink of a publicity stunt ... and I am hearing it all over the place. Because one person somewhere complained they could not get their car charged, all of a sudden this is getting exaggerating into - EVERYONE is buying electric cars and have "charger rage".

Could this being blown out of proportion for marketing purposes?

And ... if people are so desperate for charging time ... maybe it indicates that the mileage that electric car makers advertise is overblown to the point people are afraid of getting stranded at work or wherever.

Posted by Ev owner, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2014 at 10:16 pm


You must have gone to the wrong garage on the wrong day, the auto detailers move about the city. As for the coffee, well it was not that great, so you did not miss anything. On the plus side, at least they made an effort.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2014 at 10:33 pm

>> If you assume that a public charger is being used 10 hours per day it will bring in a whooping $10 per day minus the electric cost and the cost of the unit.

That is enough to pay the unit off in a year or two ... why not:

1. Put a coin operated charger on these units


2. When the car is charged and the time runs out ... start discharging the car.

That way, people would be right there on time to get their car out!

Posted by Ev owner, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2014 at 7:11 am

The fees are collected electronically. Cars that don't move pay more.

Posted by Jon B, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 29, 2014 at 11:08 am

EV Owner, yes, there are free services that the City provides that not everyone uses or approves of - similar to the Federal government using tax dollars for wars, welfare or whatever. The difference in this case is that electricity is a commodity sold by the Utilities Department. The majority of adults in Palo Alto use cars to get around and pay for their own gasoline or CNG. Why (regardless of how little it may cost) should EV owners be treated any differently?

Posted by Ev owner, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2014 at 11:44 am


I am saying the cost is so low that collecting a fee might cost the city more than the city receives in fees. I also don't see this free service as any different as any other free services. You do not agree.

Are the special tax breaks that petroleum companies get, subsidizing the gas the we all use also an issue for you?

That said I am ok with Palo Alto charging a $1 an hour like some neighboring cities, if this is really important to you, complain to the city, but its not important to me, its trivial waste when you compare it to other things Palo Alto does. Like I said, I have never used PA's chargers, I just don't mind they are there.

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