One of the push backs I occasionally receive when predicting mass adaptation of EV’s is how charging will work in multi family buildings and where people use street parking. And being the eternal optimist that I am, I’ve voiced my faith that we will find solutions. And here they come. This is really an exciting development. Check it out.

EV charging comes to S.F. apartment buildings

By David R. Baker

Monday, October 20, 2014


San Francisco’s love affair with the electric car has always come with one serious caveat — most of the city’s residents can’t plug in at home.

More than 60 percent of San Franciscans rent, usually in multiunit buildings that may or may not have a shared garage. Installing a charging station would require the building owner’s consent. It would also involve a visit from PG&E to put in a separate electrical meter, so the landlord wouldn’t end up paying for filling up tenants’ cars. In other words, it’s a pain.

Now a San Francisco startup, Powertree Services, says it has the solution.

The company is partnering with Japanese electronics giant Panasonic to install chargers in 68 San Francisco apartment buildings, using an approach that borrows heavily from the no-money-down leases that have revolutionized the solar industry.

In each building, Powertree will rent several parking spaces in the garage and supply level-two charging stations for each space. Powertree will also rent the building’s roof and install solar panels. The panels will feed a lithium-ion battery pack, which in turn will feed the chargers.

The landlord pays nothing and gets a new stream of rent in return. Tenants can sign up with Powertree to charge their cars or use electricity from the panels, paying a flat monthly fee for each service. (The company has not yet announced the size of those fees.)
The idea has one other twist: All tenants who sign up with the service can use Powertree’s chargers in any building, so long as there’s space available. Need to run an errand in another neighborhood? You can drive your EV there, use Powertree’s mobile app to locate a nearby garage and use the same app to open an electric garage door that Powertree will install in each building. Plug the car in, run your errand, then drive home. As an added bonus, you’ll actually have a place to park.

“You can go to the Marina, to North Beach, out to Crissy Field, and you’ll get parking included with charging,” said Stacey Reineccius, Powertree’s CEO.

He has already lined up about 100 buildings whose owners want to participate. The initial 68, which he says will take about $15 million to equip with panels and chargers, should have their gear running by next spring.

“There’s a lot of interest from building owners, but the barrier has been a combination of complexity and cost versus the perceived benefit to the owner,” Reineccius said. “For an individual owner to do it, it’s usually been too much. We think by coming in and offering this as a turn-key offering, we’re going to make it a lot more attractive.”

David R. Baker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @DavidBakerSF

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