Charged up in San Juan; San Benito gets first electric car charging station

San Juan leaders felt an electrical charge of excitement Friday.

That’s because they dedicated the county’s first electric charging station for vehicles a day after they activated the machine on Muckelemi Street at the corner of Abbe Park.

The project is a partnership among the Mission City, Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, the Monterey Bay Regional Air Pollution District and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

San Juan Bautista City Council members late last year agreed to the idea funded through a $25,000 grant from the air district, distributed through AMBAG. It is one of four electric vehicle charging stations in the three-county air district. The others are in Salinas and Carmel, with another being activated soon in Watsonville.

“Basically, it’s going to be serving the region of the air district,” said Andy Hartmann with the IBEW Local 234.

Hartmann was in attendance, along with AMBAG planner Anais Schenk and San Juan city officials.

They were celebrating the opening of the station next to the park’s public bathrooms. The electric machine is about five feet tall and just a few feet wide. It is made by a company called Blink.

San Juan City Manager Roger Grimsley has stressed that he hopes it will boost tourism efforts for the town of less than 2,000 people. He mentioned how the historic city attracts more than 1 million visitors each year.

“We feel electric vehicles are going to be one of the future modes of transportation,” Grimsley said at the brief ceremony, where officials noted that the station would be free of charge for customers for the first year, after which the city will use a credit-card swiping mechanism and charge a “reasonable fee.”

While the city plans to promote its free service, part of the reason for the incentive is that the grant covers the first year of a annual $240 charge that will kick in during the second year of the five-year agreement.

AMBAG is hopeful the machine in San Juan and others will attract electric vehicle users in the three counties, along with others in Santa Clara County or the Bay Area who might need to recharge their cars.

It takes about four to six hours to charge the vehicles, with about 100 miles of coverage. Schenk pointed out that electric vehicles have navigation systems built in that allow for easy trip planning with regard to using the charging stations, and that AMBAG can keep a close eye – through the Internet – on usage data from the machines.

Hartmann also said the partners expect the presence of more stations could boost consumers’ confidence in buying the environmentally friendly vehicles. They plan to study the usage over the first year to see what they can learn from the machines.

“We’re going to collect as much data as possible,” he said.