electric_car_charge.jpgCity officials are facing several urban-living challenges in their quest to turn San Francisco into the plug-in electric vehicle capital of the country, a member of the department of the environment said today.

The city has been working for about two and a half years to implement charging stations and other infrastructure needed to make residents feel comfortable enough to buy electric vehicles, said Robert Hayden, the manager of transportation programs for SF Environment.

But the city’s high population of renters and widespread time restrictions on street parking could hamper the effort, Hayden said at a San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association presentation.

“It’s very complicated,” he said. “There are right-of-way issues, metering issues. We’re looking at ways of easing in (charging stations).”

Most charging stations use Level 2 outlets, which are 240 volts and 40 amps. They take four to six hours to charge an electric car battery–at least twice the time allotted by most of the city’s meters.

The city is also planning to install DC fast-charge stations that can bring a battery to 80 percent power in about 15 to 30 minutes, Hayden said, but the fast chargers have yet to be standardized.

Most electric-vehicle charging takes place at night, during non-peak hours, while cars are parked at homes.

But many San Francisco residents lack garages, which means the city needs to work with landlords to ensure charging station access, make public stations available, or both, Hayden said.

He said about two-thirds of San Franciscans live in multi-family buildings, and more than 81 percent of the city’s housing is renter occupied.

“We’re looking at the level and location of demand,” Hayden said.

Planning officials expect the Bay Area to have between 1,000 and 2,000 plug-in electric vehicles by the end of the year, plus more than 400 charging stations, Hayden said. San Francisco is scheduled to have 80 charging stations installed at 20 locations by 2012.

The charging stations are concentrated in the Financial District and are mostly being installed in municipal garages.

The city is also looking to install them in private garages, library parking lots, and at the San Francisco zoo, Hayden said.

Janna Brancolini, Bay City News

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