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Berkeley should allow curbside electric vehicle charging

Public solar-powered electric vehicle charging station in Novato, where the author left his Nissan Leaf for about an hour while I getting a snack at a Mexican restaurant. Photo: Alan Gould

More and more people are buying electric vehicles (EVs). For good reason. They have no tailpipes (zero emissions) and very low maintenance costs because the car’s electric motor has basically one moving part — the rotor. (There are no valves, muffler, radiator, pistons, carburetor, fan belt, etc).

Yes they have limited range, but in practice an electric vehicle can serve as a primary car for folks whose normal travel needs are trips of fewer than 70 miles or so. And yes the batteries for the most part are charged with electricity supplied by a fossil-fuel power plant, but California’s grid is getting cleaner. Just imagine a widespread network of solar powered electric vehicle charging stations.

Berkeley has permitting process that encourages installation of charging stations, also called Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE), in private garages or externally mounted on a house by a driveway. Businesses are also encouraged to install EVSEs in principle. But for residents at homes with no driveway, it’s currently illegal to install a curbside electric vehicle charging system. So buying an EV for those folks is pretty much not an option.

The key objections to allowing curbside charging include private use of the public right of way (PROW), safety, and parking access. Last year, in early efforts to address these issues, the city drafted conditions of permit approval for personal charging stations in the public right of way proposing that the parking space could be dedicated to a specific vehicle or type of vehicle; that the City would provide, at the permitee’s expense, a sign limiting daytime parking to 4 hours maximum; and that the permitee not charge fees for charging station use.
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