New electric vehicle chargers to be installed in SaMo

The City of Santa Monica is currently preparing plans for a major update and expansion of its electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Dean Kubani, director of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, led a “study session” at the latest city council meeting in which the council and public discussed the suggested plans to update the electric grid in order to ready it for new charger models.

Kubani told the Corsair in a phone interview that while the 20 currently available public chargers seem to have been adequate up to this point, the city is preparing itself for an expected future increase in alternative-vehicle usage.

“We do expect to see a lot more residents and visitors to Santa Monica driving electric vehicles in the coming years,” said Kubani. “We want to make sure we can provide adequate charge points for them wherever they go.”

Since newer, quicker charger models require more electricity, Kubani said that focusing on the update of the grid will make the chargers easier to install if they are needed, and prevent the city from wasteful installations.

“I was talking to a gentleman from Southern California Edison after the city council meeting the other night, and he said to me, ‘You know, it’s really kind of the Wild West with electric vehicles right now,’” Kubani said. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen or how many vehicles are going to be sold, and the one thing that everybody is a little leery about is installing a whole bunch of chargers that people aren’t using.”

Presently, the city’s public chargers are mainly utilized by Santa Monica’s own city vehicles, but Kubani expects this to change soon.

“Santa Monica is one of the few ground-zero spots where everybody is focusing, because in the populace here you’ve got a lot of early adopters,” Kubani said.

Installing enough chargers to satisfy this likely increase in demand will not be an inexpensive undertaking, however.

“They’re not free,” said Kubani. “Most of the chargers we’ve been installing to date have been with outside grant funding, so the number that we do ultimately end up installing is going to depend on how they get paid for, too.”

It is likely that in the future, people will have to pay to use the chargers.

“Right now the city is coving all the electricity cost for these chargers,” Kubani said. “But if we start deploying these in larger numbers around the city, I think it would make sense for the people using them to cover the electricity cost.”

Kubani’s report to the council also presented ideas that would encourage businesses to install chargers, and tackled comlicated issues the city is facing regarding the installation of chargers in multi-family rental residencies.

Installing chargers in older apartment buildings is difficult as it is hard to monitor electricity consumption in common-use areas like garages, and because owners of older buildings may not want to put the money into updating electrical systems. “Which could cost, our building official estimates, up to $10,000 dollars,” Kubani said.

So what’s the next step?

“Probably the main areas that we’re going to be working on are coming up with some policies for the public chargers. Looking at number one, where are we going to put them? Number two, how are we going to pay for them? And number three, how many of these things do we ultimately think we’ll need?” Kubani said. “And we’re also going to be spending probably a lot of out time looking at this question of rental housing, and how can we help multi family renters who want to buy electric vehicles meet their needs for charging?”