San Francisco City Hall

Editor’s Note: San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has written an exclusive guest post on this topic here on Gas 2.0 earlier this same day


At approximately 10:00 AM PST today, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will announce the installation of three electric vehicle charging stations in front of City Hall. The stations will be used by plug-in electric vehicles already in San Francisco’s municipal fleet, along with plug-in electric hybrids owned by car-sharing organizations City CarShare and Zipcar.

The charging stations were provided for a two-year public demonstration by “Smartlet” manufacturer Coulomb Technologies—one of the few companies vying for primacy in the business of building or supplying EV charging stations.

“Electric vehicles are the future of transportation and the Bay Area is the testing ground for the technology. We began using plug-in hybrids in the city’s fleet last year. Now, for the first time the public can plug-in to the next generation of cars through car sharing organizations and take them for a drive in San Francisco.””

-Gavin Newsom, Mayor of San Francisco

One of the big stumbling blocks to would-be widespread electric vehicle use, and of particular importance to San Francisco residents (where only 16% of drivers have access to a garage), is the chicken-and-egg problem of electric-vehicle recharging. Assuming electric cars were affordable and available, where would owners plug them in?

While a handful of stations are already available in San Jose (11 in Portland, OR), they aren’t exactly ubiquitous (find the charging stations that do exist at

Today’s announcement follows the Bay Area’s attempt to address this and other issues: a 9-step policy declaration on electric vehicles made last November (see video below). Mayor Newsom, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed jointly outlined a plan to transform the Bay Area into the “EV Capital of the US.” The plan intends to make electric vehicles commercially available by 2012, and make the Bay Area a top-priority market for investment in EV infrastructure. Coinciding with the announcement, Coulomb competitor Better Place estimated it would invest $1 billion in electric vehicle networks by the target date.

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One of the plan’s 9 points is the expedited permitting and approval of battery exchanges and fast-charging stations, which is what today’s event is all about:

“Today’s announcement further demonstrates that the Bay Area is the epicenter of the electric vehicle movement. A smart, networked infrastructure is an essential enabler of this movement and the City of San Francisco is leading by example.”

-Richard Lowenthal, CEO of Coulomb Technologies

Car-sharing services offer a unique chance to test out user preference and practicality of plug-in vehicles before they hit the market. What is not immediately clear is how accessible the charging stations will be to plug-in hybrid drivers using car sharing services like City CarShare or Zipcar, or when and where these new models will be available (we’ll be calling them this morning for comment).

How this fits in with national policy: Electric vehicles received a major jolt yesterday from the new economic stimulus bill, which allocates $2 billion in grants for manufacturing advanced batteries, plus tax credits to cover the cost of manufacturing facilities. Additionally, tax credits of up to $7,500 will be available to those who buy new plug-in electric vehicles along with $300 million set aside for federal agencies to buy alternative fuel vehicles (including plug-ins), and $400 million for “transportation electrification.” Another $4.5 billion will be set aside for improving the nation’s electric grid.

More on Electric Vehicles and Recharging Stations from Gas 2.0/CleanTechnica/RGB:

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Image Credit: Dave Minogue, Licensed under Creative Commons via Flickr