Mon09222014

Community

Could electric-vehicle ownership in Los Altos generate the green?


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This is Part 2 in a two-part series examining the local impact of electric vehicles. Click here to read Part I in the series.

Although it’s gratifying to do good, when you can make green by being green, it may be even better. Extolling the economic benefits of electric vehicles, stakeholders are promoting Los Altos and Los Altos Hills as hubs for zero-emissions traffic.

“It’s good for business and good for the city,” said Los Altos Hills City Councilman Rich Larsen, citing proximity to Interstate 280 and the current lack of available charging stations as opportunities to capitalize on the growing electric-vehicle market.

The Los Altos City Council voted Feb. 12 to install three charging stations in the city, courtesy of a grant. Although the profit potential on the proposed charging equipment is minimal, such infrastructure allows the city to capitalize on peripheral benefits.

“I have heard EV drivers talk about how certain cities are destinations for them. … They plan their trips based on where they will recharge and where there’s something to do while they are recharging,” said Los Altos City Councilwoman Jan Pepper.

Charging forward

Los Altos is ideally positioned to respond to the growing demand for public charging equipment. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District estimates that the region boasts 700 public charging stations, with another 1,000 to 2,000 needed by 2015 to fulfill demand.

According to Los Altos Senior Planner Zach Dahl, the city is incorporating initiatives that encourage “forward thinking” commercial electric-vehicle stewardship.

“We’ve got a couple of policies in draft form that will encourage the installation of EV chargers in public lots and private company lots,” he said. “Things like chargers can really increase vibrancy.”

As part of the town’s Climate Action Plan – a document outlining how the town can meet greenhouse-gas emissions levels by 2020, as recommended in the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 – a menu of policy actions for the city to implement are on the table. Recommendations include requiring all new development of more than 10,000 square feet to be prewired for electric-vehicle charging, establishing a neighborhood electric-vehicle network and converting the city’s fleet of vehicles to electric and alternate fuel-vehicles.

“I would suggest that the city work with LAVA (Los Altos Village Association), the Chamber, GreenTown, Los Altos Forward and other groups that are interested in making Los Altos such a destination,” Pepper said.

Although the city has yet to discuss with businesses how they might benefit from the new public charging stations, advocates like Larsen note that creative ideas – such as a restaurant and shopping affinity program that would reward electric-vehicle users with giveaways or discounts – is already generating buzz.

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