SDG&E is expanding the electric vehicle charging network in San Diego

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The San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has initiated a pilot program comprising of six projects to expand the electric vehicle (EV) charging network in the San Diego region, making it easier for businesses and drivers to make the transition to electric drive. . The projects will support California’s overall efforts to reduce carbon emissions associated with transportation.

“Gov. Brown has declared a goal of  having 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California by 2025, and we are seven years away now. SDG&E is working to expand the San Diego region’s  EV charging infrastructure, helping the state meet the goal of EV adoption in time,” says Helen Gao, Communications Manager at SDG&E.

The San Diego International Airport and San Diego Port feature in the locations where the pilot program is being launched. The port sees a lot of activity with regard to electric equipment in the medium and heavy-duty range, like trucks and giant forklifts. “We are working with port tenants to help them not just with purchasing electric equipment, but also to get grants to pay for their trucks,” explains Gao. “And with the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission, we would be working with the port to put in charging stations.”

Gao feels the whole process to be a chicken and egg issue. In the absence of electric charging stations, customers would not be willing to invest in electric equipment, and in the absence of  significant electric equipment activity, it would be hard for SDG&E to understand the need for charging stations in a particular vicinity.

“In the pilot project, we would be collecting data and looking at it to understand better the charging patterns and how tenants use the technology and equipment they have. The lessons learned through this pilot would help in future programs - like bringing in automotive technologies,” feels Gao.

California has a sensitive stand on the greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution issues, both at the state and regional level. The port of San Diego, for example, is surrounded by disadvantaged communities that suffer from a disproportionate amount of pollution and have higher instances of asthma and other conditions, caused or exacerbated by air pollution. “From the port’s perspective, this is an important project for them, because they want to be good neighbors and reduce pollution and the noise,” adds Gao.

SDG&E also has plans of expanding the EV charging networks on a larger scale than envisioned before. The company has sent in a new filing to the California Public Utilities Commission for putting charging stations outside the port in facilities that use medium and heavy-duty equipment and vehicles.

“It is not just the trucks we are talking about. It is also about refrigerated semi-trailers that are important for transporting perishable goods, and  school buses and delivery trucks,” says Gao. “There is so much more we are hoping to accomplish. The pilot project at the port is just the beginning of our effort in the medium and heavy-duty space of transportation electrification.”

The pilot program represents an expansion of SDG&E’s  transportation electrification EV charging program. SDG&E also has an ongoing program called Power Your Drive to install up to 3,500 charging ports at apartments, condominium complexes, and workplaces.. At the San Diego International Airport, the project that is being undertaken involves installing 45 charging ports to support ground support equipment like electric motors and tugs. The project hopes to support electrification of about 90 pieces of equipment at the airport.

“The airport project is divided into two phases. Currently, the airport already has some electric ground support equipment that they are using. The first phase would be us upgrading the existing electric charging equipment that they already have. Then we install some meters and collect data on how the equipment is being used, ” explains Gao. “Once that phase is done, we move on to the planning and installation of new charging ports. The airport in San Diego has a strong commitment to sustainability and in reducing their carbon footprint. So they are very interested in  proceeding with this project.”

One of the most significant problems with EV adoption is the range anxiety of potential customers, believes Gao. But word is getting out to businesses that the total cost of ownership is often lower with EVs, as the electric vehicles have fewer components than conventional vehicles with an internal combustion engine. EVs generally   have lower  maintenance costs. More importantly, gas price fluctuations have no bearing on an EV, thus rendering fuel surcharge costs irrelevant. On a higher level, it also ends up saving the environment as an EV has no tail-pipe emission.

SDG&E is one of the greenest energy companies out there, with 43% of its energy being generated through renewable energy sources. As the company hopes to increase its Renewable Portfolio Standard this year, it also believes there would be greater adoption of EVs in the region of San Diego, which would help the state meet its goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2025.   

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