It might be hard to learn exactly how many electric cars are in San Mateo, but there is no denying the town — which represents the northern end of Silicon Valley, and is just 18 miles from Tesla Motors’ Palo Alto headquarters — is a hotbed of electric vehicle ownership.
And the city government is encouraging the use of zero-emissions vehicles with a network of charging stations on public property, including a newly unveiled station with technology that can “fill up” an electric car’s charge in about 30 minutes.
Located at the San Mateo Downtown Transit Center adjacent to Caltrain’s San Mateo Station, the new charging facility features two Level 2 chargers and two DC fast chargers. The equipment was installed by NRG EVgo, and according to company spokesman Jeremy Desel, each DC fast charger can bring an electric car to full charge in as little as a half-hour, while the Level 2 chargers typically take a few hours to accomplish the same task.
And the embedded electronics in the 50-kilowatt devices are versatile enough that they can be readily adapted to provide 100 or even 150-kilowatt charging as soon as that becomes technically feasible, Desel said. A 150-kilowatt mechanism could fully charge an electric car in about seven minutes, Desel explained, but car battery technology would have to be similarly upgraded for that to be possible.
NRG EVgo’s relationship with the city is also exciting, Desel said. While his company has 35 publicly accessible charging stations in the Bay Area, Desel noted San Mateo is the first city anywhere to enter into a direct partnership with the service provider.
San Mateo Sustainability Manager Kathy Kleinbaum said the DC fast chargers cost NRG EVgo about $85,000 to install. Because San Mateo officials see the charging station as a public good, they are leasing the space to the company for just $1 per year.
In addition to the NRG EVgo partnership, the city previously spent about $50,000 installing charging stations at three other sites, Kleinbaum said, but those are all slower Level 2 chargers. The stations are located at City Hall, the main branch of the San Mateo Public Library, and in the Central Parking Garage.
City spokeswoman Rebecca Zito envisions electric car owners parking at the Caltrain station, commuting by train to and from work, and then using the NRG EVgo equipment to charge their vehicles before heading for home. And because Caltrain plans to exclusively run electric trains from San Francisco to San Jose by 2020, it is possible that such workers would have fully electric commutes.
San Mateo was named as one of 50 finalists for Georgetown University’s Sustainability Prize last year, and the city’s push for greener transportation solutions could be seen as consistent with other efforts at county and regional levels.
Last year, state Assemblyman Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, along with other legislators, convinced the California Public Utilities Commission to lift its ban on public utilities owning electric vehicle charging stations.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted in February to move forward with Community Choice Aggregation, a plan that would enable cities and individual ratepayers to buy their electricity from providers using renewable sources.
In conjunction with National Drive Electric Week, San Mateo will host the Electric Vehicle Expo on Saturday, Sept. 12, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 1 Franklin Parkway, San Mateo. The San Mateo Police Department’s electric motorcycles will be on display, and demonstration rides in the Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF, BMW i3, and Ford plug-in hybrid cars will be offered.