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Santa Barbara Council Approves Installation of Six Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

The hourly rate for the stations, designed to target out-of-town visitors, reportedly would be much higher than nearby jurisdictions

After the Santa Barbara City Council gave its approval Tuesday to install six electric vehicle charging stations, Santa Barbara County could have 18 total public stations by the end of the month.

Solvang has installed three stations, and the county Board of Supervisors approved nine that will be installed at various county-owned properties.

Funded by a U.S. Department of Energy grant, Coulomb Technologies is donating and installing thousands of stations throughout the country to facilitate more use of electric vehicles. Santa Barbara still needs to finalize its contract with Coulomb, but the proposal includes a free two-year contract to the ChargePoint America network, which collects data on charging history and helps customers find open stations and make reservations.

Santa Barbara’s stations would be placed in the Helena Avenue lot and the Granada Theatre and Central Library parking structures, and charge customers $5 per hour, with 40 cents per session and a fee percentage kicked back to Coulomb.

The city’s hourly rate is reportedly much higher than nearby jurisdictions — Solvang charges $1.25 per hour — but that fee would be the break-even rate assuming 40 hours of monthly use, according to Jim Dewey, Santa Barbara’s facilities and energy manager.

The Downtown Parking Committee approved the fee but said customers would have to pay parking fees when they exit the lots, which can be up to $20 on the weekends.

While new generation electric vehicles can use the “level two” chargers that bring a battery back from the dead to a full charge in seven hours, the plug-in hybrids and older vehicles can use only the “level one” chargers, which take 20 hours to fully recharge a Nissan Leaf, according to Dewey.

Local owners of electric cars are likely to have chargers at home, since it’s more economical and they can charge overnight, so the city’s stations are designed to attract people from out of town who shop and visit Santa Barbara, Dewey said. All-electric cars don’t have much of a range — the Nissan Leaf gets about 70 miles —  and City Council members questioned the actual demand and attractiveness of the city’s stations, especially given the cheaper rates in surrounding cities.

Ventura has 10 stations that charge only 50 cents to recoup electricity expenses, so Santa Barbara’s prices could keep people away, said Michael Chiacos of the Community Environmental Council.

This is seen as a pilot program since electric vehicle demand is expected to increase, Dewey noted, and city staff will report back to the council and possibly make changes after a few months of operation. The only costs to the city for the first two years will be maintenance.

Parking superintendent Victor Garza said there will be a net gain of two after the new stations are installed since there are four existing stations — albeit older models and rarely used.

Solvang’s three stations — with two hookups each — are located at Alisal Road and Mission Drive in city parking lots.

The county’s charging stations are expected to be installed at:

» 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara

» 260 N. San Antonio Road in Santa Barbara

» 511 E. Lakeside Pkwy. in Santa Maria

» 312 E. Cook St. in Santa Maria

» 1109 W. Chestnut Ave. in Lompoc

» 2981 Cliff Drive in Santa Barbara (Arroyo Burro Beach)

» 881 Embarcadero Del Mar in Isla Vista

» 2297 Finney Road in Summerland (Lookout Beach Park)

» Highway 101 at Bates Road in Carpinteria (Rincon Beach)

To find nearby alternative fueling stations, click here for the Department of Energy’s station locator for sources of biodiesel, compressed natural gas, electric charging stations, ethanol, hydrogen, liquefied natural gas and propane.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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