County Supervisors to Discuss Environment, Electric Car Chargers

Santa Clara County has a lot of electric cars, but not enough chargers. The Board of Supervisors may start shaping some sort of public policy to make way for more chargers to encourage people to buy electric vehicles. Coming up with legit zoning rules could be a big push in that direction, according to a memo by Supervisor Ken Yeager on Tuesday’s meeting agenda.

There’s a shortage of chargers in the Bay Area, but no guidelines exist in the county that even address installing them. The county has 494 chargers at public buildings and private companies, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Northern California ranks first for electric car ownership per capita, yet the Bay Area ranks fourth for the number of charging stations per 100,000 people, according to electric car software company Xatori.

“To meet the growing demand of current electric vehicle owners and to promote the use of electric vehicles, new county ordinances will help strengthen local infrastructure for electric vehicle charges,” Yeager writes.

The public isn’t exactly waiting for public policy to catch up with the trend. People have been installing charging stations at home and at work anyway.

Common home outlets deliver about 110 to 120 volts, the slowest and simplest way to charge a car, the county says. Second-tier chargers deliver 240 volts, about the same charge you need to power a washing machine and dryer. The quickest charge takes 30 minutes using a 480-volt DC charger.

The thing is, for more powerful chargers, you have to rewire a building—they’re generally not set up to accommodate car chargers. Maybe the county could come up with some rules about new construction including 240-volt wiring to the garage, since it’s pricier to retrofit.

Conducive infrastructure could go a long way in making electric cars more popular, Yeager notes. Especially coupled with tax breaks and rebates from federal and state agencies for those who opt to go electric. Electric car buyers can claim a $700 rebate through the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for installing a home car charger—at least through the end of June.

Material incentives are key, seeing as how being on the (possible) brink of a climate change tipping point isn’t enough to prompt people to eschew fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

A car emits, on average, 8,887 grams of carbon dioxide per gallon of burned gasoline, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Some electric cars in the county have a CO2 emission rate fives times less than its typical gas-powered counterpart, which annually spews out more than 13,000 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere.

“Accounting for the electricity sources used in the Silicon Valley to power a purely electric vehicle, an electric vehicle here only emits 4,300 pounds of CO2,” the memo says.

For a 100-mile journey, it costs $13.36 to fuel a gas-powered compact sedan. The same trip in a hybrid costs $7.10. In an electric? Only $3.74.

Aside from the atmospheric benefit of encouraging electric car use, there’s a political one, too. The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 charges the county to slash its use of fossil fuels in a big way by 2015. Doing that will make the county eligible for government grants.

Now if only manufacturers could assuage fears of car charger hacking.

More from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agenda for May 21, 2013:

A science center for students could get built in the east Milpitas hills if the county agrees to team up with the city’s school district. Milpitas Unified School District already pegged $250,000 for the project. Supervisor David Cortese wants the county to look at ways to support the effort.

• A $1.8 million agreement with Compass Group USA will provide meals to frail and homebound elderly in the coming year, if supervisors OK the contract.

• Cash-strapped families without personal transportation sometimes have a tough time holding down jobs because it’s hard to commute. The county supports a service that connects low-income families in need with transportation connections. There’s a $599,000 year-long contract proposed with Outreach and Escort Inc. to shuttle families from home to work that supes will consider Tuesday.

• The county has to pay $2.9 million for traveling nurses working between January and June this year, according to a contract amendment going before the board for approval.

Biohazard cleanup for the next few years will cost the county $1.2 million, per an agreement up for consideration.

• The County Executive’s office gets a $515,000 bump from a federal communications security grant.

WHAT: Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meet
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Lynn Regadanz, [email protected]

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. > Material incentives are key, seeing as how being on the (possible) brink of a climate change tipping point isn’t enough to prompt people to eschew fossil fuel-powered vehicles.


    Is this where we go know to get the hard science and serious economic analysis to confirm that human caused global warming is real and the solution is government subsidies to crony capitalists for $80,000 electric cars with toxic heavy metal batteries and a 40 mile range between charges?

    The Obama administration IRS should be auditing Salon Magazine for this self serving stupidity.

    Oh, wait.




      • Amusing.

        Amusing because it is so silly.

        Not one mention of the word “experiment”.

        Lots of mentions of the word “consensus”.

        Scientists base their beliefs on experimental data.

        Politicians and activists base their beliefs on “what everybody thinks”.

        “Everybody thinks” that the government might put a big slug of money in their supperdish if they sing songs from the global warming hymnal.

        • People like you pretend that you know something about science, and want definitive proof.

          Nothing in science is definite.  It’s all about widely believed, and consensus.

        • > It’s all about widely believed, and consensus.

          In politics, Obama is President because 50.5% believe he’s the president.

          In science, a theory isn’t true because 51% of the facts supporting it are true.

          It’s only true if 100% of the facts support it.

          The global warming quacks have yet to show that their theory is 100% consistent with and explains real world data.  If global warming is “global”, why isn’t EVERY place on the globe warmer?

          Duh? I dunno.

          We live in an age where people are marinated in touchy feely socialist groupthink and believe that’s what defines reality.

          If 51% of student activists at Berkeley passionately believe that the moon is made of green cheese, that doesn’t prove that the moon is made of green cheese.

          It proves that 51% of student activists are gullible dopes.

        • You are correct. I have made up my mind … after twenty years of scientific education and study.

          “Global warming” is a narrative; it’s not science.

          Trust fund children really don’t know what “science” is.

          They think a narrative about science is the same thing as science.

          “I’m not a Doctor, but I play one on TV.  Take two aspirin and call me in the morning”.

          Global warming activists are the same people who write fan mail to TV actors and ask if Dr. Spock and Lt. Uhuru ever had sex on the Enterprise.

  2. Is is too unreasonable to demand that the government provide me with a Tesla so that I can take advantage of the existing car chargers and any future installed car chargers?

    Seriously, for a county that suppossedly has lots of electrics and not enough chargers I see lots of thoe electrics parked in spots that are no where near chargers and I see lots of vacant parking spots reserved for electrics adjacent to chargers.

    What gives? Are electric car owners charging their cars at home at their own expense? Is the range of electrics great enough that charging away from home-base is not necessary?

    Seems like a big waste of taxpayer money to me – not the part about taxpayers giving me a Tesla – just the part about the government providing public charging stations…