EV enthusiasts can recharge in Portola Valley
Two digital displays now glow blue in the night in parking lots at the Portola Valley Town Center at 765 Portola Road. Electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations wait for customers near the Historic Schoolhouse and the library, each station capable of recharging two cars at once. For the present, the service is free.
The station at the library quietly recharged two cars during a ribbon-cutting ceremony under a canopy in light rain on Thursday, March 15. Mayor Maryann Derwin presided before about 20 people.
"In the six-plus years since I've been on the Town Council, I've watched a new value rise to the forefront of our collective environmental consciousness: sustainability," Ms. Derwin said in a prepared statement. The town has taken "another step along the path in (its) commitment to reduce greenhouse gasses, and in a real global sense, lessen our dependence on foreign oil." (The Town Center has a substantial array of solar panels.)
The California Energy Commission gave Portola Valley $15,000 to install the stations, and until December 2013, a U.S. Department of Energy grant pays the $230 per-station per-year network connection fee.
Recharging can take several hours, so a network website shows station locations and whether they're busy, and what the electrons cost.
Mike DiNucci, a spokesman for Campbell-based station manufacturer Coulomb Technologies, spoke and took questions.
There are some 10,000 charging stations in the United States today, Mr. DiNucci said, including many for Silicon Valley employees. Google, he said, provides 280 stations at 68 buildings in Mountain View.
One electric vehicle owner noted that a round trip to San Francisco requires a recharge in the city, and that charging stations there can be busy.
Drivers can reserve stations online, Mr. DiNucci said, but that's no guarantee because drivers without reservations have been known to start a recharge and refuse to move when someone with a reservation arrives.
"At this point," he added, "there's a small enough population of EV drivers that it can be self-policing."
Time is one tradeoff with an electric car. The Nissan Leaf has two receptacles: one renders a full charge in about seven hours, the other an 80 percent charge in 30 minutes. Just one problem, according to a Redwood City Nissan salesman: The only 30-minute station in the Bay Area is in Vacaville.
A possible downside to rapid recharging is the life-shortening toll it may take on a vehicle's $15,000 battery pack, Mr. DiNucci said.