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West Oakland garage getting electric car-chargers for public use

on December 2, 2021

Oakland is partnering with electric provider East Bay Community Energy to install 17 dual-port fast chargers, powered solely by solar and wind power, at the City Center West Garage. 

The project is part of the Oakland Transportation Department’s plan to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles across the city, while tackling the health disparities in neighborhoods most plagued by air pollution.

Bounded by the Port of Oakland and the interstate 580, 880 and 980 freeways, West Oakland has some of the worst air quality in the city, due in part to the pollution emitted by the diesel trucks that have barrelled on those roads and around the Port for decades. 

An assessment from the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project in 2019 showed the cancer risk for West Oaklanders ranged from 110 cases per million people in Hoover-Foster to 346 per million at the Port, which aligns with the rising concentration of diesel pollution.

To curb the toxic emissions, the DOT wants to replace more fuel-based vehicles with EVs. But drivers won’t switch to electric cars if they don’t have access to chargers. 

Currently, EVs are most necessary in the areas prone to pollution. The Oakland Hills have the highest concentrations of EVs and private charging stations, but the numbers are low in West Oakland — it has none of the 223 publicly accessible charging stations in the city.

Michael Ford, manager of DOT’s Parking and Mobility Division, said the department is prioritizing city-owned properties near multi-family housing as top locations for charging stations. Almost 60% of Oaklanders are renters, and many of them live in dated multi-family units that require electrical wiring upgrades as well as permission from the owners to install chargers.

“The DOT is trying to be opportunistic; we want to accelerate the installation of charging infrastructure using the resources that are available to us, such as a garage that has an operating budget and 24/7 access,” Ford said. 

It is the first collaboration between the DOT and EBCE. Since it was launched in 2018, EBCE has become the default power provider to residents, businesses, and public sector customers in Alameda County. The agency buys electricity from clean energy sources and distributes it through PG&E’s power grids.

According to Jessie Denver, EBCE’s senior distributed energy resources manager, this partnership makes sense because the power agency provides the funding and maintenance while taking care of the procurement process to bring in private companies. In exchange, the city, which is still dealing with budget deficits, only has to provide access to its properties, such as parking lots, for the charging stations to be installed.

Brian Beveridge, co- director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, applauds the city for installing more public chargers. 

“Going to a garage to power your cars is still foreign to many drivers,” he said. “But just like the old baseball movie “Field of Dreams,” — ‘If you build it, they will come’ — we have to keep building the charging infrastructure. People will see it and realize the technology is available to all of them.” 

The city expects the chargers to be available to the public by the end of next year.

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Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: oaklandnorthstaff@gmail.com.

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