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California hopes to accelerate its push toward 100% zero-emission new car sales by 2035. But some people who want to do their part to lessen the carbon footprint are having to install impractical, makeshift charging stations.
The charging station Rebecca Lucky of Santa Clara County constructed to charge her 2019 Nissan Leaf is not like charging stations you may have seen in parking lots or garages.
“I basically had an extension cord going from my balcony to the car on the public street,” she said.
Lucky went to great lengths every night to charge her EV.
She told KCRA 3 Investigates that she would roll the extension cord from her second-floor apartment to her car.
“I’d usually do it after nine o’clock when the discount from PG&E was available,” she said. “I’d put a cone over there with a mat. I would tape it down with duct tape every night. Then I’d have to hurry up and wheel it in at six o’clock in the morning.”
For some Californians who live in apartments, this is the reality of electric vehicle ownership.
“I did it for about six months until I was told I couldn’t do it anymore,” Lucky said.
For people who live in single-family homes, charging an electric vehicle is an easier experience, with the charger accessible in their garage.
That’s the set-up that Guy Hall, director and policy committee chair for the Electric Vehicle Association, said he has. Having electric vehicles has saved him money because he hasn’t had to pay for gas and maintenance, he said.
But the challenge for electric vehicle leadership is to make EV ownership easier for more Californians.
Also, there are charging dead zones throughout the state. In Sacramento, those dead zones include Midtown, East Sacramento, Oak Park, areas with mid-to-low-income residents, apartment complexes and more.
Lucky said she has also experienced challenges with charging stations in the Bay Area.
“I’ve had situations where all the charging stations were occupied, or they were broken,” she said. “So, I’d have to like backtrack on my leg of my trip to try to then go charge. I was like kind of stranded in Santa Cruz County for a little while at one point.”
“There’s a pretty steep climb ahead of us in terms of how many chargers to get out there,” said Dave Mullaney with the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit that is working to accelerate the clean energy transition.
In a report from 2017, RMI brought up the need for charging infrastructure to keep up with new cars on the road.
“California in a lot of ways has led the way and in charging infrastructure deployment. So, getting them out there has been happening, but not quite as fast as we need it to,” Mullaney told KCRA 3 Investigates.
That RMI report found that California had nearly 300,000 electric vehicles on the road in 2017. That’s an average of 27 cars per regular charger. Getting more people to buy into the EV market will require both cheaper cars and quicker charging. In 2017, there were 196 cars per fast charger.
“We’ve got to have EV infrastructure everywhere on the streets and parking lots and garages and people’s homes and apartment buildings,” said Redondo Beach state senator Ben Allen. “It’s a critical part of the rollout of the EV plan.”
United States Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm stopped in Sacramento County in December. KCRA 3 asked what federal officials have planned to improve access to low-income and high-population areas.
“We want to make sure those charging stations are everywhere,” she said. “For example, in urban areas no garage we want to make sure they’re available at retail or streets, or in apartment buildings themselves.”
For the state, counties and cities, that means looking farther down the road to make sure there are enough chargers for drivers still on the fence.
| RELATED | Here are some of the ways you can find a charging station for your electric vehicle
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