City plugs into electric car era

The City Council on Tuesday approved negotiations with the provider of electric car charging stations for the installation of two stations in the city-owned Forest Avenue/Laguna Canyon parking lot.

The council's support was based on charging tourists with fees for the service and parking, which will be limited to three hours.

"Let's do this," said Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly.

The charging equipment is funded by grants made available by ChargePoint America. The city would pay the electricity costs and the $21,000 installation fee.

The council says the fees will offset the cost of electricity and the loss of an estimated $23,000 in parking revenue over the next eight years from the two dedicated spaces, actual amounts to be determined. The stations also can function as parking meters, officials said.

Egly suggested the three-hour limit for charges to prevent hogging the spaces.

"We also must look at our parking ordinance," said Will Holoman, the senior water quality analyst who prepared the staff report for the council.

Holoman said the ordinance might need an amendment to include no-parking signs for gas-powered vehicles, which would include hybrids that cannot be plugged in.

The demand for charging stations is minimal, Holoman said, probably not more than 20 hours a week, which would cost the city about $2,300 for electricity.

However, he predicted sharp increases in demand in this decade and beyond. Mayor Toni Iseman thinks it will be sooner, rather than later.

"I think it will be 80 hours a week," Iseman said.

Holoman expects that visiting drivers of electric vehicles will not need full charges. He thinks they will park at the station for a couple of hours while they have dinner and do a little shopping.

Currently, the driving range for electric vehicles is about 100 miles.

Nissan Leaf's lithium-ion battery packs combined with "regenerative" braking gives the car a driving range of more than 100 miles on a single charge, according to Nissan.

Charges up to 80% of capacity take about 30 minutes on a quick charger. A full charge on a home-installation is estimated to take eight hours.

General Motors brags that the 2011 Volt provides gas-and emission-free driving for most commutes — and if called on to go a little further, the gas-powered onboard generator will take drivers where they want to go.

The public's concerns about the environment and the economy have fueled the development and promotion of greener vehicles, automotive industry spokespeople said. More plug-ins, including an all-electric Prius, are in the pipeline.

And Laguna Beach will provide the plugs, if negotiations with ChargePoint meet with council approval.

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