Art meets EV infrastructure as Sacramento adds colorful electric vehicle chargers

·3 min read

Sacramento has installed three new curbside fast charging stations and will add three more in the near future, part of a pilot program as the city looks to boost infrastructure for electric vehicles.

The new chargers set up downtown, on 14th Street between E and F streets, are vibrant. The terminals are painted with flowers, butterflies, owls, giraffes and other animals by local artist Melissa Uroff.

“If you’re gonna have an installation like this — you can tell, these are not small, they’re not inconspicuous — you might as well wrap them and make them beautiful,” City Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela said.

The next trio of curbside chargers, planned to open in midtown at 22nd and J streets before the end of October, will also be painted. The six at those two locations join six already established at Southside Park, near 6th and W streets.

All are operated by EVgo, an electric vehicle charging network with which the city has partnered.

There are a few dozen other charging locations on Sacramento’s downtown and midtown grid, according to an online map from PlugShare. But most of those are located in private lots or garages.

“It will enable not just shoppers and workers to charge during the day, but also people who live in buildings that maybe can’t have EV chargers because they ... don’t have a driveway or garage,” Valenzuela said.

City staff members are continuing analysis on electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and will examine trends at pilot locations like the new downtown and midtown terminals to guide decisions on future expansions.

One challenge is that the stations are better suited for angled or perpendicular parking than for parallel spaces, which make up the bulk of downtown’s public curbside parking, explained Jenna Hahn, a city sustainability analyst managing the project.

“We learned just how difficult curbside charging can be, because there are so many considerations,” Hahn said. “Access to power, trees, slope, drainage — all sorts of things when you’re doing it in the right-of-way vs. say, a parking lot.”

Speed of charging will vary by vehicle, but most will be able to charge in about 45 minutes, Hahn said. Charging costs about 35 cents per kWh plus a flat fee of $2, according to the EVgo website.

Gov. Gavin Newsom in an executive order last year said California will ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035, citing the need to cut emissions to combat smog pollution that is contributing to climate change.

“Over 50% of our greenhouse gas emissions here in the city of Sacramento come from transportation,” Hahn said. “And so we’re really trying to do everything we can to reduce barriers.”

Hahn said there isn’t a set goal of how many more curbside charging stations the city may establish in the near future.

Sacramento in its 2017 city plan has indicated that it wants 75,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, estimating it would need 3,800 charging stations to support that many. By 2020, the city had about 700.

“There’s a lot of interest and momentum in trying to expand curbside charging beyond just these sites,” Hahn said. “But we don’t know what that looks like yet.”

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