County votes to expand electric vehicle fleet

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to increase the county’s use of electric vehicles and expand the accessibility of charging stations.

By a 4-0 vote — Greg Cox was absent — the board approved what Supervisor Nathan Fletcher described as a “electric vehicle roadmap” that “propels us closer to an environmentally sustainable future.”

Fletcher said there’s little debate that most San Diego county residents drive, but electric vehicles are one way to reduce pollution and maintenance costs.

The roadmap proposes strategies and policies needed for more EVs in the county fleet, funding sources, and advocacy to make EVs affordable and available to residents.

Fletcher said that over the last few years, the county has purchased 35 EVs — with 15 on order — and installed about 80 charging stations.

At the same time, the city of Chula Vista — with half the population of San Diego County — has 49 EVs in use and installed 123 chargers at its facilities, Fletcher said, noting an 80 percent reduction of maintenance costs for EVs.

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said that as a working mother, she drives a lot and purchased a hybrid vehicle. When EVs were introduced, Gaspar said she tried one, but finding a charging station was a challenge.

In Encinitas, leaders placed a charging facility a next to coffee shop, Gaspar said, which was also a way to get people to stop and visit the town.

When it comes to an EV roadmap, “I would encourage us to really get creative,” Gaspar said. She said the county should seek employee input, starting with a survey.

Gaspar added that it’s her understanding that EV owners can also be charged a parking fee, along with the electricity cost.

She said it’s important for the county to be thoughtful and better understand human behavior regarding vehicle choices.

Supervisor Jim Desmond said he supports the roadmap, but it should address the latest technology when it comes to commuting, including road lanes equipped to charge cars.

During public comment, several people touted the benefits of more EVs in the county fleet, including greenhouse gas reduction and jobs.

Shannon Bresnahan, vice president of Cleantech San Diego, said the county is home to 32,000 EVs and 1,600 charging stations.

“With this roadmap, the county will help the region continue to lead on clean transportation,” she said. “San Diego’s quality of life will be better because of it.”

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