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San Diego wants electric vehicle chargers installed soon at 400 city parking lots

San Diego is launching a plan to have electric vehicle chargers quickly installed in more than 400 city parking lots, including every library, beach, park and recreation center.

The goal is to help accelerate creation of a reliable and accessible regional charging network that will make it easier to own an electric car. The plan calls for a city-hired private vendor to complete all the installations within two years of getting the contract.

San Diego officials say the new initiative will help achieve an ambitious goal in the city’s climate action plan of having electric vehicles account for at least a quarter of all the city’s driving by 2035.

“The city can’t just be passive on this,” said Alyssa Muto, director of the city’s Sustainability and Mobility Department.

Officials said adding several hundred new charging stations on public property in every city neighborhood will help make electric vehicles feasible for people who can’t charge a vehicle at home.

Officials also said that requiring the private vendor to install chargers in every city parking lot reduces the likelihood of equity concerns, where chargers are installed only where they will get the most use, probably in wealthy areas.

Equity concerns are also why city officials chose to do one citywide contract instead of allowing multiple vendors to install charging stations, because having multiple vendors could prompt each to “cherry-pick” prime locations.

Having multiple vendors would also slow the process down and force city officials to manage multiple contracts, they said.

The city last week issued a request for proposals seeking a vendor to install the new chargers. The plan was also endorsed last week by the City Council’s Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Because the vendor will essentially have a monopoly for charging stations on city property, officials have added a requirement that any proposed rate hikes for use of the chargers get submitted to the city for approval ahead of time.

But city officials say their power will be somewhat limited regarding rates, noting that they will be required to be “reasonable” when approving them.

In addition, the vendor chosen through the request-for-proposals process might negotiate the city’s authority over rate hikes out of whatever final deal is reached.

The vendor will be required to submit for approval specific plans to install chargers at each individual site. The vendor will be allowed to decide site-by-site whether to use solar power or to connect to the local power grid.

The vendor will have a 10-year exclusive contract to finance, install, own and operate all the charging stations. In exchange, the vendor will pay the city fees and share revenues.

When the 10-year contract ends, the city plans to buy all the charging stations from the vendor for discounted prices based on depreciation.

Officials said there are almost certain to be new perspectives on vehicle charging at that time, because of technological advances and a better understanding of people’s habits.

Owning the infrastructure will give the city leverage in whatever successor contract makes sense based on those perspectives, officials said.

Officials say they expect it will cost about $60 million to buy all the infrastructure when the contract ends.

The only charging stations now operating on city property are 15 installed nearly eight years ago that are open to the public and another four installed two years ago that can only be used for city vehicles.

City officials said the timing of the new plan dovetails with electric cars recently becoming more affordable. The plan also fits with a new state law mandating that all new light-duty cars sold in California must be electric by 2035.

In addition to parking lots at libraries, parks, beaches and rec centers, the chargers will be installed at city buildings and some other facilities.

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