News

Palo Alto moves ahead with electric-vehicle policy

City seeks to cement status as clean-tech leader, encourage new charging stations

Seeking to bolster the city's reputation as a clean-tech leader and prepare for a surge of electric vehicles on city streets, Palo Alto officials this week adopted a new policy to encourage installation of charging stations.

Debra van Duynhoven, assistant to City Manager James Keene for sustainability, wrote in a report that the city "recognizes EVs as an important part of the solution for reaching its greenhouse gas emission reduction goal, and so has an interest in encouraging the use of EVs throughout the community."

"Progressive, early adopter residents and commuters are moving forward with EV purchases now," van Duynhoven wrote in the report. "The City can further its sustainability goals by positioning itself to support these emerging technologies."

The council passed the policy 7-0 Monday night (Dec. 19), with council members Larry Klein and Pat Burt absent.

The document proposed by staff includes seven policies, including encouraging partnerships between applicants and the city on creating charging stations, providing incentives for customers to charge their vehicles during off-peak hours and providing a "quick and efficient" permitting and inspection process.

The council also decided Monday to add a new policy stressing highlighting the importance of aesthetics in new charging stations. Councilwoman Karen Holman argued that the technology is still fairly new and that it is important for staff and developers to recognize the importance of an appealing design. She pointed to a recent proposal by AT&T to install antennas throughout Palo Alto -- a plan that has attracted heated opposition from neighborhoods where the equipment would be installed.

"At a time when the ATT antennas are such a topic of conversation and disagreement among the community, I think not to address the aesthetics of these installations would be a great oversight on our part," Holman said.

Vice Mayor Yiaway Yeh agreed and said that good aesthetics can draw attention to the stations and encourage usage.

"Given the investment that the city is interested in making for these particular stations, ultimately we're calling attention to them," Yeh said. "We want them to be something that promotes and appeals to members of the public to actually use," Yeh said.

The city hopes the new policy will further underscore the city's position at the forefront of the electric-vehicle trend. The California Energy Commission estimates that Palo Alto will have between 3,000 and 10,000 electric vehicles by 2020. Palo Alto has already installed five electric-charging stations at city garages.

Palo Alto is already home to several electric-vehicle pioneers, including Tesla Motors and Better Place. Major employers, including Stanford Shopping Center, SAP and HP, have already installed charging stations and other companies are expected to follow suit.

Given the presence of these companies, there is a "strong impetus for Palo Alto to become a leader in EV support and adoption," van Duynhoven wrote.

"Green technologies such as EVs are an important part of the City of Palo Alto brand and the growth of these technologies supports the City's economic development objectives."

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2011 at 10:41 am

Has any thought been given as to how these charging stations are going to charge users? I sincerely hope that this is not a freebie. I don't think PA taxpayers want to finance anybody's car fuel whatever it may be.


Like this comment
Posted by Also Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2011 at 10:59 am

@Resident. How predictable. The city comes up with a wonderful, forward thinking plan to reduce fossil fuel usage, and one of the curmudgeons pipes up with a complaint.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2011 at 11:42 am



The Chevy Volt is Costing Taxpayers Up to $250K Per Vehicle


Analyst: 'This might be the most government-supported car since the Trabant'

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Stu Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2011 at 11:46 am

@resident of another Palo Alto neighborhood:
Some of us are trying to clean up the environment and lessen our dependence on unstable regimes around the world. Don't you think that Palo Alto residents want to provide incentives for that? It is bad enough that this country has refused to tax the external costs (health impacts, global warming, etc.) imposed on all of us by the use fossil fuels. I support doing whatever we can to prompt people to switch away from oil.


Like this comment
Posted by Inferior PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm

"Seeking to bolster the city's reputation as a clean-tech leader " Wow, Palo Alto has a huge inferiority complex if it has to bolster it's image in this way!!


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2011 at 1:14 pm

"external costs (health impacts, global warming, etc.) imposed on all of us by the use fossil fuels."

Stu, the electrcity must be generated. Most of this new demand will come from burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas). Or are you talking about nuclear? Wind and solar do not provide baseload electrical generation. Please explain.


Like this comment
Posted by Noel
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 21, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Palo Alto should electrify its Police parking enforcement fleet as part of this effort. The Firefly electric 3-wheeled parking enforcement vehicle is made by Good Earth Electric Vehicles of Fort Worth, Texas. It's been tested and approved by the police departments of Santa Monica, Seattle, San Francisco and Las Vegas and will be put into service by Santa Monica and Seattle in early 2012. They would be perfect for Palo Alto and would probably save a lot of money in fuel and operating costs as well.


Like this comment
Posted by Earl Richards
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Google the "Global Oil Scam" by Phil Davis. Purchase solar panels and electric cars.


Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

"external costs (health impacts, global warming, etc.) imposed on all of us by the use fossil fuels."

EV advocates routinely fail to include the lifecycle costs of the batteries. The mining and fabrication of the batteries tends to have substantial negative environmental impacts, as does disposal.


Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I read the next-to-final version of the recommendation, and it was the typical aspirational "analysis" -- heavy on Palo Alto wanting to _appear_ to be a leader and negligible about actually providing useful results.

By not considering actual need -- when, where and how much -- Palo Alto seems intent on install devices that will have little or no usage. For example, in my many trips into the garage under City Hall, I don't remember ever seeing the charging station there being used (it is in a highly visible location, taking up a highly desirable parking spot).

Is there anything more anti-green that conspicuous displays of consumption -- un/under-utilized charging stations are expensive status symbols.


Like this comment
Posted by Long time in Palo Alto
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 21, 2011 at 2:50 pm

What will be saved with the 8 to 18 months to get a permit. That is if things work quickly for a change in Palo Alto.


Like this comment
Posted by Waiter
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 21, 2011 at 2:56 pm

When your traffic management is the joke of the peninsula, I guess it makes sense to try and support vehicles that pollute less while stuck in the traffic jams.


Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm

The analysis of the Chevy Volt costing $250K per vehicle is flawed. For every vehicle ever developed, the cost is a function of volume of sales. If you're planning to sell many but end up selling only one, it will cost billions. The Volt is very early in its cycle so this is very poor logic indeed. How much was invested in producing the first 6000 Mustangs?

The battery disposal issue is heavily overblown. Car manufacturers plan to refurbish, reuse and recycle batteries depending on their condition. The energy required for this one-time operation is miniscule compared to burning thousands of gallons of gasoline per year, with all the associated environmental and political costs of petroleum-based fuels.

The electrical generation argument (wind/solar vs. gas/coal) is also flawed. There is huge investment going forward in solar -- massive arrays of panels in the desert, so we are weaning ourselves off gas and coal. This doesn't happen overnight. Plus if you have solar on your house, the whole gas/coal argument is void. Plus, we're going to have to give up gasoline anyway -- there's just not enough and it's silly to wait until it's all gone to make the switch.

Overall, I am convinced that electric vehicles are a viable solution to may of our transportation needs. It's still early but these things take time (just a gasoline vehicles did). Questioning the efficacy of electric vehicles is a bit like questioning the value of computers -- people thought computers would never be able to do millions of calculations without making a mistake!

The future is here. Embrace it. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2011 at 4:16 pm

"The electrical generation argument (wind/solar vs. gas/coal) is also flawed. There is huge investment going forward in solar -- massive arrays of panels in the desert, so we are weaning ourselves off gas and coal."

Although I also support EVs, I cannot simply bury my head in the sand and pretend that electrical generation (and accompanying pollution) is not an issue. Solar arrays do not produce at night (need I explain why?). Wind is variable, at best. Most EVs will charge at home, at night. This means baselaod electrical generation. This also means coal/natural gas/nuclear (there will be no more additional hydro). Make your choice.

I would also add that industrialzing our deserts and mountain ridges is NOT green!


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Electric vehicles have been available since 1905 [Baker].


Like this comment
Posted by Waste energy
a resident of Triple El
on Dec 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Looks like once again this is about our city's fragile ego. How much will it cost us this time? The green zealots need to be put in their places.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2011 at 6:30 pm



The government subsidy per Volt is $256,824.

That means a taxpayer subsidy of $256,824 per Volt.

An outrage

"This is a matter of simple math," said Hohman.

"I added the known state and federal incentives that have been offered and divided by the number of Volts sold.

If GM has additional information to add to the public data on the use of taxpayer money, I look forward to seeing it."


Taxpayers did not subsidize the production or price of the Mustang


The Volt is a Government Motors white elephant and dodo


Like this comment
Posted by some guy
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2011 at 8:38 pm

It takes me about 5 minutes to gas up my car at the gas station. I wouldn't want to sit around at the charging station for an hour or more waiting for the battery to charge up, especially if I happened to be in a hurry at the moment. I'm sure someone will say that it doesn't take that long, but I'm skeptical about that. I know from long experience that batteries don't get fully charged quickly. Maybe a quick charge would be enough to get you home.


Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2011 at 10:06 pm

As the old adage goes, success is dependent upon three things...location, location, location.

If it takes a significant amount of time to charge an EV, it makes good sense to ensure they are in locations where people are likely to spend that amount of time normally and usually...

shopping centers, day spas, etc.

Let's see if they figure that out. " )


Like this comment
Posted by Chargers
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 22, 2011 at 12:03 am

The list could/should include:
1. Art Center
2. Libraries
3. Lucie Stern
4. Most Parks
5. Univ. Ave Parking lots
6. California Ave.


Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 22, 2011 at 1:48 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On locations for chargers:
My understanding is that the range for the typical EVs is currently 80 miles and projected to increase. The provision of charging stations at destinations is intended to facilitate long commutes. It also encourages electrical usage during peak hours. Yet all the people I hear advocating for plentiful non-residential charging stations also advocate against what those stations facilitate.

If they counter that they expect the stations to be lightly used, that is wasteful use of the resources represented by the charging station itself and the parking space dedicated to it (land use, hardscape, ...).

An environmentally responsible approach would be to identify actual need and benefits, but the modern "environmentalist" is quite happy to be quite wasteful on things that are politically correct for them, and can't be bothered to do a reasonable accounting of costs and benefits.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2011 at 8:30 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

But just wait until the politicians finish revising Ohm's law.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Dec 22, 2011 at 9:40 am

Any Palo Alto condo complexes install charging equipment yet?

The place I live is finding it difficult to justify the infrastructure cost.

In the complex where I live the parking is away from the units. The only available power is a small amount of common area power. We've been told that the cost to run power from our units to our parking spots is tens of thousands of dollars. There is not enough available capacity running to our buildings. Plus. the street would have to be dug up too.

Also, each unit only has one reserved spot. This was the norm in the 1950's when the complex was built. Today, however, each unit has two cars with one parked on the street.

Are all electric cars charged using the same connector? Or does each manufacturer have its own? Is the voltage standard across manufacturers?


Like this comment
Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 22, 2011 at 10:24 am

I don't understand why so many of you are complaining about paying to burn fossil fuels to turn into "free" electricity for subsidized (to the current - no pun intended - tune of ~$250K/per) electric vehicle owners.

After all, these electric vehicle owners only make an average of $170K/year, and need all the help they can get.

I LOVE subsidizing Volt, Fisker, and Tesla owners. It makes me feel SO virtuous.


Like this comment
Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2011 at 12:11 pm

As an owner of an electric vehicle, thank you more government handouts. The only reason why I got it is because I get a carpool sticker. Now you guys are giving me free electricity everywhere, this is awesome.

More more more!


Like this comment
Posted by Carlito Waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm

>Debra van Duynhoven, assistant to City Manager James Keene for >sustainability, wrote in a report that the city "recognizes EVs as >an important part of the solution for reaching its greenhouse gas >emission reduction goal, and so has an interest in encouraging the >use of EVs throughout the community."

Is she an airhead or what. Can you tell us where the electricity is going to be coming from?

Obviously not from "green" sources. What could you expect from those green-nazis.


Like this comment
Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2011 at 9:48 pm



Actually there is a serious problem with spontaneous combustion from lithium arrayed electric car batteries.

When one of these cars burns down a building and kills people the City of Palo Alto will be liable for $100+ Billions

Also the PB and lithium is very toxic to the environment and to humans and animals.

We now have discovered enough US natural gas to fuel our economy for 200+ yrs--combine that with new oil discoveries and add another 200 years

AGW has been revealed as a fraud

Why are we wasting PA taxpayers money on a scientific fraud and serious fire risk?

Follow the money


Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2011 at 7:59 am

get the real facts.
the US imports 50% of the oil we burn each day at a cost of $1 Billion a day. Gas and Diesel cars make deadly pollution,it doesn't disappear.

Electric Vehicles are very efficient, 4 times better than a gas car. They can even regenerate power as they slow and stop saving brake wear and making no dust or heat like regular brakes do.

Utilities have excess energy at night Off Peak and usually dump it, they can't turn off Nuclear, COAL or even hydro so lets use it in our vehicles replacing OIL.

Most public charging stations won't be used a lot, they just help you get home when you 300 mile range Tesla S needs a few extra miles to get home and charge Of Peak.

The only thing more efficient and greener is to ride a bicycle so if you don't see why EVs are better you should bicycle.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 24, 2011 at 10:06 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Jim, you are nuts!
Base load plants can be turned way down, but say 90% down for argument's sake. They NEVER "dump" power. They DO sell power cheaper at night.
We import 50% of our fuel while we sit on top of 200 years' supply held off the market for foolish "reasons". And make note: As our consumption of coal and oil increased, our health got better. You been smokin' some weird tobacco, brotha!


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 24, 2011 at 11:04 am

"Electric Vehicles are very efficient, 4 times better than a gas car. They can even regenerate power as they slow and stop saving brake wear and making no dust or heat like regular brakes do."

Jim, you are confused. Electric motors are about 3-4 times more efficient than internal combustion motors, but EVs required generated vibrating electrons from a distant power plant. Any additional baseload electricity in this state will be generated by coal or natural gas or nuclear...there are no other choices, period. If you don't like greenhouse gases, then the only choice is nuclear...are you a big supporter of nuclear, Jim?

These methods require heat engines (like steam turbines), which are not nearly as efficient as electric motors. Then there are transmission line losses (Ohm's Law..what a bitch!). Then there are battery inefficiencies and chemical breakdown. Then there is reliability of EVs...would you prefer carrying an extra plastic gas can in your trunk, when you go into the back country roads, or hope for a charging station every mile or so?

Look, I support EVs...they have their role, but let's not gild the lilly here!


Like this comment
Posted by Please explain efficiency
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 24, 2011 at 6:06 pm

I'm a little confused about the efficiency and pollution footprint of these electric cars.

If you include the pollution and fuel used to create and distribute the electricity using current power sources and distribution mechanisms, are these cars "greener?"

Aren't we simply burning the carbon-based fuel at power generation and then less efficiently distributing it to the cars vs. burning the carbon-based fuel within the car?

It would be helpful to point me to some gross estimates of efficiency, pollution, and distribution costs and benefits along with the vehicle efficiencies of each approach.

Are there any objective analyses of this?


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 25, 2011 at 5:48 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Objective? We don't need any objective!


Like this comment
Posted by Objective ...
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 26, 2011 at 10:57 am

The objective of EV is not GREEN - that GREEN stupidity is in the minds of the Palo Altans.

EV is to reduce dependence on OIL and to stop flow of $$ to countries that have been flexing their muscles a lot (Russia, Iran, etc..)

EV may one day reduce the chances of your son/daughters to go fight wars.

Just forget GREEN.


Like this comment
Posted by Please explain efficiency
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 26, 2011 at 11:33 am

"EV is to reduce dependence on OIL and to stop flow of $$ to countries that have been flexing their muscles a lot (Russia, Iran, etc..)"

OK, can someone point to an analysis that shows driving EVs now or sometime in the future will reduce our total consumption of petroleum-based fuel? Even if it ends up polluting more than alternatives?

My concern is that I've heard most of the power used to charge these batteries comes from coal or oil burning anyway.

I'm trying to understand the extent to which EVs provide logistic advantage in the conversion of power to transportation.


Like this comment
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 26, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Another luxury, non-essential expenditure that the city shouldn't even be considering. At least not during these difficult financial times with so many vital infrastructure priorities that exist. A valuable endeavor at some point. Just can't be done now.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Objective - If we want to reduce the dependence on foreign oil, just drill here! We are sitting on reserves for another 200 years consumption, including the entire coast of California. I sometimes suspect that OPEC sits on the board of the Sierra Club. All it takes to bring a glut on to the oil market is give the go ahead to our own drillers.


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Please explain (enery efficienty of EVs vs internal combustion engines),

The following link will provide a short sketch of the issue(s).

Bottom line: It depends on the generating source.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Waste energy
a resident of Triple El
on Dec 27, 2011 at 10:28 am

The important thing is that these charging stations be aesthtically pleasing. That is what holman and the rest of the council think is important. Ignore the recent report concerning our infrastructure backlog. Also make sure that the charging stations do not replace any historic structures! Boy some people in palo alto still think the world is awaiting to see what palo alto does next so that they can follow. Time to get rid of our current council- dump klein, holman, yet and the rest of these egomaniacs


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