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San Diego wants electric vehicle chargers installed soon at over 400 parking lots

San Diego wants to work with a vendor to install electric vehicle chargers for the public in more than 400 city parking lots.
San Diego officials want to work with a private vendor to install electric vehicle chargers for the public in more than 400 city parking lots.
(Rob Nikolewski / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The stations would be at every city library, beach, park and recreation center.

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San Diego is launching a plan to have electric vehicle chargers quickly installed in more than 400 city parking lots, including at every library, beach, park and recreation center.

The goal is to help accelerate creation of a reliable and accessible regional charging network that would make it easier to own an electric car. The plan calls for a city-hired private vendor to complete all the installations within two years of getting the contract.

The only charging stations now operating on city property are 15 installed nearly eight years ago that are open to the public and four more installed two years ago that can only be used for city vehicles.

In addition to the 400 parking lots, chargers will be installed at city buildings and some other facilities.

San Diego officials say the new initiative will help achieve an ambitious goal in the city’s Climate Action Plan of having electric vehicles account for at least a quarter of all the city’s driving by 2035. Officials say the plan dovetails with electric cars recently becoming more affordable and fits with a new state law mandating that all new light-duty cars sold in California must be electric by 2035.

“The city can’t just be passive on this,” said Alyssa Muto, director of the city’s Sustainability and Mobility Department.

Officials said adding several hundred new charging stations on public property in every city neighborhood will help make electric vehicles feasible for people who can’t charge a vehicle at home.

Mayor Todd Gloria at a news conference announcing a pilot program for electric vehicle charging.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria announces installation two years ago of four electric charging stations for city vehicles.
(Rob Nikolewski / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Officials also said they chose to have one citywide contract instead of allowing multiple vendors to install charging stations because having multiple vendors could prompt each to “cherry-pick” prime locations.

Having multiple vendors also would slow the process and force the city to manage multiple contracts, they said.

The plan was endorsed by the City Council’s Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the city has issued a request for proposals seeking a vendor to install the new chargers.

Because the vendor essentially will have a monopoly on charging stations on city property, officials have added a requirement that any proposed rate increases for use of the chargers be submitted to the city for approval in advance.

But city officials say their power will be somewhat limited regarding rates, noting they will be required to be “reasonable” when reviewing them.

In addition, the vendor chosen through the request for proposals might negotiate the city’s authority over rate hikes.

The vendor will be required to submit for approval specific plans to install chargers at each site and will be allowed to decide site by site whether to use solar power or connect to the local power grid.

The vendor will have a 10-year exclusive contract to finance, install, own and operate all the charging stations. In exchange, it will pay the city fees and share revenue.

The city plans to buy all the charging stations when the contract ends for discounted prices based on depreciation. Officials say they expect it will cost about $60 million.

Officials said owning the infrastructure will give the city leverage in whatever successor contract makes sense based on any new perspectives on vehicle charging at the time because of technological advances and a better understanding of people’s habits.

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