New charging stations on the way for four Palo Alto garages | News | Palo Alto Online |


New charging stations on the way for four Palo Alto garages

Stations would be powered by on-site solar panels atop garages in downtown and near California Avenue

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."


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Like this comment
Posted by brucedp
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 23, 2017 at 9:44 am

-23 cents per kilowatt hour, which will cost an average driver $2 per charge-

That per charge cost is only for a 3 hour charge with an old EV that has a cheap 3kW on-board charger. Today's EV have a full 6kW level-2 (L2) on-board charger. So, a driver using their full 3 hour parking time limit drawing 6kW @.23kWph would cost them ~$4.14.

Which still quite a bargain, compared to all the much more expensive and restrictive public EVSE nearby, see

I really like that the EVSE was installed on the top garage level because those EV spots are less likely to be iced by lazy gas car drivers up there.

I hope the city will consider on their next round of EVSE upgrades/additions, to install a less expensive 24kW L3 DC EVSE. Since there is already a CHAdeMO nearby
make it a combo L3 DC charger installed on a garage's top level powered by PVs.

A half powered combo EVSE (similar to)
Web Link
a 200+ mile range EV would regain all its charge in less than the 3 hour time limit. If the city wants to also have a 24kW CHAdeMO L3 EVSE, so much the better :-)

6 people like this
Posted by Time to charge
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2017 at 11:18 am

SO glad they are finally starting to charge for this. Its time to see if the EVs can stand on their own without all the free charging and state/federal rebates for vehicle purchase.

10 people like this
Posted by A resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2017 at 10:34 am

@Time to charge
It's even more high time to see if fossil fuel (vehicles) can stand on their own,
without decades of tax breaks, oil wars, geopolitical posturing and conflicts,
lobbying in Congress, etc etc...

I would say let's subsidize EVs, as they are the future of transport...
the sooner the better...

6 people like this
Posted by Garages good, library not
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 24, 2017 at 12:12 pm

It would be great if they could now get rid of the inappropriate charging stations taking up parking spaces in front of the Main Library.
A garage is a good place. Using the parking reserved for library users is nuts.

8 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2017 at 12:57 pm

@Garages good, library not:

It is likely that some library users have electric vehicles. Whether or not they choose to charge while they are using the library facilities is a separate issue.

That said, like A resident (of Midtown), I support the government encouraging the use of EVs.

7 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 24, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Re the library charging stations, I often see people just hanging around near their charging stations working on their laptops or on their phones, not visiting the library.. Since so many other parking spaces are reserved for car pools, there's real contention for the few remaining spaces. At Rinconada, library patrons are also competing with community gardeners and at Mitchell, with all the Mitchell Park users.

Like this comment
Posted by Electric Driver
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 24, 2017 at 6:07 pm

My favorite place to charge on a long trip is somewhere near something to do. Who wants to sit in a garage unless it is beside an amenity? A good shopping center (think Stanford) or Gilroy outlets, or nice restaurants (think Harris Ranch on I5) are ideal. A movie theater might be good also.

However, my husband may not be in total agreement as I usually spend more money than we would normally pay for filling up with gas.

Like this comment
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2017 at 6:17 pm

"My favorite place to charge on a long trip is somewhere near something to do."

Probably so for a lot of local EVDs, present and future, also. I wonder why our enterprising service destinations, like restaurants and theaters and gymns and hair/nail joints, don't see the opportunity and install a couple-three chargers in their parking areas.

3 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 24, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Is there a single buyer of any hybrid/electric car that was actually incentivized to buy it by the prospect of free (as opposed to $2-4) charges from the city?

(And for all the Tesla owners, it's a subsidy for the wealthy.)

Like this comment
Posted by Michael O.
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 24, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Prediction: there will be lots of empty chargers now that they will be making people pay. There are lots of local people charging because it's free. Wealthy Palo Altons can charge at home for less that $0.23/kWh but LOVE to save the $1.33 by catching a few free kWh's a the PA free charger. I, for one, will no longer be charging at the city's chargers now that there is a fee.

Like this comment
Posted by Well
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2017 at 12:13 pm

While .23 at kwh is more expensive than charging at home in palo alto, but it is still less expensive than gas for me. Some charging station's fee is for time connected, not power consumed, so I never charge at those because they end up being more expensive than gas. Since my car that can run on gas or electric, it makes little economic sense to pay a premium to run on electric. My break even point right now is calculated by taking the price of a gallon of gas and dividing it by 10. About .30 right now, I think. I so seldom buy gas I am not even really sure of the current price.

I can answer the question of "why do they use the closer spaces for chargers?" Its because of the wiring required, in most cases, it makes sense place the chargers close to the building where most stations are getting their power.

As for EVs being subsidized, I think it is interesting that you used the Internet to make this complaint, a medium that was highly government subsidized to get it off the ground. Getting a paradigm shift going sometimes takes deep pockets to get it started. With oil interests actively trying to sabotage the reintroduction of electric vehicles, and few people willing to take the risk, incentivizing people to get it started helps. It also helps the manufacturers achieve economy of scale.

EVs make a lot of sense for most drivers. People try to argue corner cases, but really it is a better way to go.

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