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SDG&E Pushes For More Electric Cars In San Diego

An electric car is seen covered in colorful designs, May 16, 2016.
Nicholas McVicker
An electric car is seen covered in colorful designs, May 16, 2016.

SDG&E Pushes For More Electric Cars In San Diego
San Diego's investor-owned utility is spending $7.5 million over five years to encourage the transition to electrically powered cars.

San Diego Gas and Electric plans to spend a significant amount of money to raise awareness and to dramatically expand the number of drivers using electric cars. The company wants to see a major change in the next four years.

"In our region we have over 20,000 electric vehicles on our roads and we hope to increase that number to 80,000 in 2020," said Jeff Martin, the utility's chairman, president and CEO.

SDG&E is considering new pricing structures that make it cheaper to charge cars in the middle of the day, when there's a surplus of solar produced electricity.

"Our program will also feature special rates to maximize the use of renewable energy to charge electric vehicles," Martin said. "We're designing new rates to allow our customers to capture this unique opportunity (in the middle of the day) to literally drive on sunshine."

The education effort comes in addition to a $45 million pilot project recently approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. That program commits the utility to installing 3,500 charging stations around the county.

Getting rid of range anxiety — the fear that a driver will run out of battery power before their planned trip is over — eliminates a major obstacle to ownership.

"With more workplaces and businesses able to provide charging for their customers and employees, it will be easier for them to drive an electric vehicle 20 or more miles to downtown, to our beaches, to Mission Bay, without having to worry if they'll have enough battery power to actually make it home," said Mark Kersey, a city councilman representing San Diego's norther inland communities.

Electric cars are seen as an obvious way to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions, since 40 percent of those gases come from cars and trucks.

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