Drivers who charge their electric vehicles at Palo Alto's public garages will soon have more stations at their disposal.
However, they will soon be charged for the privilege.
The city has recently installed six new electric chargers at the Bryant Street garage, bringing the total to nine. The chargers at both this garage and the one at 520 Webster St. are both powered by solar panels that were recently installed at these two garages as part of the city's partnership with Komuna Energy.
Komuna is also installing solar panels and six additional charger ports at the two garages on Cambridge Avenue, in the California Avenue Business District. Like the two downtown garages, drivers will be able to power up their vehicles with energy generated on-site.
And as part of the project, Komuna will install infrastructure that would support 20 additional chargers in the four garages, according to an announcement from the city.
The partnership between the city and Komuma came out of the city's new feed-in tariff program, known as Palo Alto CLEAN, which allows solar installers to sell back energy to the city for a fixed rate. Komuna has five projects in Palo Alto through this program (the four garages and a solar project at the Unitarian Universalist Church) with a total capacity of 1,587.40 kilowatts.
But while the proliferation of charging stations spells some good news for electric-vehicle drivers, the commodity comes at a price. Starting in August, the city will start implementing a new fee of 23 cents per kilowatt hour, which will cost an average driver $2 per charge.
The technology will also encourage drivers to move their cars once they are fully charged by sending them a mobile notification, according to the city's statement. After a 20-minute grace period, drivers would face a fee of $2 per hour for ever hour that their fully-charged car remains plugged in.
According to the city, the fee is "intended to not only spur turnover at the charging stations, but also serve as a cost recovery mechanism for ongoing maintenance and support expansion of public EV charging facilities."
Palo Alto's effort to electrify its garages is part of a broader shift toward locally generated solar power. The city has a goal of getting 4 percent of its total energy consumption from local solar by 2020. According to the city's announcement, the new solar panels at the Bryant and Webster garages will bring the city halfway toward achieving a goal of adding 1.3 megawatts of solar capacity to its four garages.
The city is also pushing ahead with its broader effort to promote electric vehicles. Though Palo Alto already has one of the highest per-capita ownership rates in the country (about 2,500 local residents own an electric vehicle, according to the city), officials hope to encourage even more people to go electric.
According to the announcement, the city began offering rebates of up to $30,000 earlier this summer for electric-vehicle charging stations at schools, nonprofits, multifamily complexes and mixed-use properties. In August, residents and employees would be able to get discounts on charging stations through the Bay Area SunShares program.
The city also has a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to install 40 chargers, which would bring the total number of chargers at public facilities to more than 90.
On Monday, the city will plans to celebrate the installation of the solar panels on the Bryant Street garage with a rooftop ceremony. The event will kick off at 2 p.m. at the downtown garage, 445 Bryant St.
"Our ability to generate local renewable power used to enhance the infrastructure in support of electric vehicle ownership and driving reinforces Palo Alto's role as a leader in clean energy and EV market share," City Manager James Keene said in a statement. "Both are key to reaching our sustainability and climate action goals."