Two new electric vehicle charging stations like these ones have opened for Whole Foods customers at Telegraph and Ashby. Photo: Business Wire

Berkeley’s Whole Foods market unveiled two new, powerful charging stations for electric vehicles yesterday at its store at the intersection of Telegraph at Ashby. The move brings the total number of public stations in the city to four, and Berkeley is on track to gain at least a further seven stations in the not too distant future.

This will be welcome news to owners of Leafs, Volts and Teslas whose numbers are on the rise: the city has seen a 70% increase in electric vehicle registrations in the past six months, according to Sarah Moore, Assistant Planner in the city’s Office of Energy and Sustainable Development, who estimates there are around 350 electric vehicles currently registered to Berkeley residents and businesses.

The Whole Foods stations allow customers with electric cars to boost their power from zero to 80% in just 20-30 minutes if they choose their DC-Fast option.

Whole Foods is the first business to participate in a City of Berkeley pilot program to ease the permitting and installation of EV charging stations.

Berkeley’s other two other public EV charging stations are in downtown’s Center Street parking garage. They provide free power to those who have paid the parking fee, but not at quite the rate as the DC Fast option at Whole Foods: the garage’s Level 2 stations provide about 10-15 miles of range per hour of charging. (UC Berkeley’s Upper Hearst Parking garage also has an EV station, but it requires a C parking permit Monday through Friday 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s accessible to the public during evening and weekend hours and has no fee for charging beyond the parking fee.)

Another charging station is set to be installed this week at Extra Storage Space on Frontage Road at Cedar Street, Moore said. Like Whole Foods, the storage company is taking advantage of the Non-Residential Plug-In Electric Vehicle Charging Station Pilot Program, applications for which are being accepted through the end of the year.

Meanwhile, it looks like Berkeley will be one of ten communities that will receive funds from a $500,000 California Energy Commission grant to install municipal EV charging stations. Assuming the funding gets the final OK, that would see six more stations installed: five at the city’s other two central parking garages — three at Telegraph/Channing and two at Oxford Street — as well as one at the Berkeley Marina, according to Moore.

And that’s not all. Whole Foods is expected to install EV charging stations in its new Berkeley store on Gilman Street which is currently under construction, according to Moore. That could bring the total in the city to around a dozen.

Moore said the process for getting home electric vehicle charging stations approved has also been streamlined to make it easier for those who want car power where they live. A Transportation Commission meeting on Feb. 20 recommended a pilot project for curbside EV charging to the City Council.

The commitment to EV infrastructure and the use of electric vehicles is part of Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 33% by 2020.

Moore said transportation emissions make up half of greenhouse gas emissions, so the city is keen to get people using non gas-powered cars. Driving an electric vehicle in Berkeley in place of a conventional automobile can reduce the greenhouse emissions associated with its travel by as much as 70%.

The new EV charging stations installed at the Whole Foods are operated by NRG eVgo and offer Level 2 charging as well as DC Fast charging. Shoppers can use a credit card or subscribe to an NRG eVgo charging plan to pay for the power. (See breakdown of charges at NRG eVgo online.)

Op-Ed: Let’s get curbside electric vehicle charging (02.20.14)
Whole Foods confirms it will open second Berkeley store (02.13.13)
Berkeley boy gets real in the Whole Foods parking lot (06.16.11)

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...