Electric Vehicle Owners Will Soon Be Able to Charge Curbside

This post originally appeared on Seattle Magazine’s website.

Earlier this month, Mayor Jenny Durkan officially opened a 156-station charging facility for the city’s fleet of electric vehicles— “the first of its kind for an American city and one of one of the largest indoor electric vehicle charging stations in the country,” according to the press release.

But the development that will have a more significant impact for ordinary drivers, the city hopes, is a program called Electric Vehicle Charging in the Right-of-Way—EVCROW, for short(ish).

Part of a larger plan to get 30 percent of the city’s car owners to switch to electric vehicles by 2030, the EVCROW pilot will set aside dozens of curbside parking spots throughout the city for use EV drivers in 2018, with the goal of expanding the program if the pilot is successful.

Durkan unveiled the first iteration of the program earlier this month—two charging stations operated by Seattle City Light, the first in a network that will eventually include 20 stations across the city—but EVCROW’s real potential may be in the private sector. At least two private companies are seeking city approval to install potentially dozens of charging stations, which resemble standard gas pumps, in city rights-of-way, alongside parking spots set aside exclusively for electric vehicles.

The German charging station company eluminocity is close to getting city approval for one charging station, with six to eight more sites in the permitting pipeline; Greenlots, a California company, is seeking approval for several dozen charging stations, although the number of stations they actually install will depend on future funding.

The on-street spots will be reserved exclusively for EV owners to use while charging their vehicles, a process that takes between roughly 30 minutes and four hours, depending on the type of charger. That will take some of Seattle’s on-street parking out of commission for people who drive gas-powered cars.

Chris Bast, climate and transportation policy advisor at the city’s Office of Sustainability and Environment, says the program will be restricted primarily to designated urban villages and urban centers—relatively dense, transit-rich areas along major arterial streets— to “help encourage electrification of high-mileage fleets,” such as car sharing and taxi companies.

The on-street spots will be reserved exclusively for EV owners to use while charging their vehicles, a process that takes between roughly 30 minutes and four hours, depending on the type of charger. That will take some of Seattle’s on-street parking out of commission for people who drive gas-powered cars.

Bast acknowledges that reserved parking for EV users could be perceived as a class issue—a new Nissan Leaf starts at about $30,000, out of range for low- and moderate-income drivers—but notes that the program is open to all EV cars, although Tesla, which has a proprietary charging system, could not install its chargers in the right-of-way under the new program.

In theory, as EVs become cheaper (and used EVs become more widely available), the stations could see more use from people without high incomes. Tesla, Bast notes, has put its own, proprietary charging stations mostly in small towns along major highways, and has yet to expand much into urban areas.

One thing Bast says the city won’t do in its quest to encourage EV use is allow private homeowners to install their own parking stations in the parking strips in front of their property, which is owned by the city. “You maintain it, but we don’t let you put a hot tub there. We can’t allow you that exclusive use, just like we can’t guarantee you the parking space in front of your house.”

Almost half the climate-changing carbon emissions in Seattle come from passenger vehicles—a higher percentage than most parts of the country, because Seattle City Light’s electricity comes from zero-emission hydropower.

“We need to reduce pollution in our transportation sector, and electrification across our whole system is the best way to do that,” Bast says. “Every gas vehicle we exchange for an electric vehicle is a 100 percent [emissions] reduction.”

That said, every car added to Seattle streets contributes to traffic congestion and sprawl, making public transportation (especially electric public transit) a greener option, overall, than driving.

5 thoughts on “Electric Vehicle Owners Will Soon Be Able to Charge Curbside

  1. Condo HOA boards are reluctant to let people plug into even 110 V electrical outlets by their spaces (I know first hand about a potential Chevy Volt purchase that got shot down even after offering to pay for any electricity used), much less a 220V charger installation. Other states, like CA, has laws that give condo owners the right to set up chargers in their spaces.

  2. Seattle also draws on coal power from Montana & Idaho last I checked. I know PSE is 25% coal based. I’d love to see more bike racks & parklets over parking spaces for cars.

  3. I bought my used EV for $9K and use it for almost all of my in-city driving. Used EVs are available now and will be even more so as time goes on.

    I agree with RDPence, the city’s decision not to facilitate apartment dwellers use of EVs is problematic. I hope the city will rethink its strategy.

  4. Tesla’s can use standard charging stations with an adapter most Tesla owners have (its free or cheap with your purchase). Also, while it is true a new Nissan Leaf is not cheap, used Leaf’s range as cheap as $8k, and a used Volt is about $10-15k depending on year. EV’s certainly are affordable options for those who are interested and not in the new car market…

  5. An essential ingredient for electric vehicle owners is the ability to charge at home overnight. But the City says no charging stations in front of people’s homes — so folks living in all those new apartments built without parking, they won’t be able to buy or operate electric cars. City says it wants to encourage electric car use, but then denies it to people without off-street parking.

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