Calif. sun to power bank's electric-car charge spots

In a deal with solar installer SolarCity, Rabobank opens an electric-car charging point powered by solar panels as part of a project between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A bank chain in California will combine PV and EV--that is, an electric-vehicle charging station equipped with solar-photovoltaic panels.

Solar installer SolarCity and Rabobank on Tuesday unveiled the charge point at a bank branch in Santa Maria, Calif.

An electric-car charging point fed by solar panels. SolarCity

The bank, which plans to build a network of four charging stations from Los Angeles to San Francisco, is considering putting solar panels on the buildings, according to Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity, which installs and provides financing for solar panels. The company owns the panels at the Santa Maria location and sells the electricity they generate to the bank.

Because charge times could be an hour or two, the charge point locations were chosen with other retail outlets and restaurants nearby. The bank doesn't plan to charge customers to access the charge points.

The site at Santa Maria has a solar array able to generate 30,000 watts and a net meter that runs backward when the panels produce more electricity than the bank is consuming. An array that large could theoretically charge roughly 2 thousand cars a year, Rive calculated.

The limited range of battery-electric, or all-electric, vehicles is a serious barrier to adoption, which has led some states and communities to invest in charging infrastructure . The Rabobank charge spots were funded by California Air Resource Board, a SolarCity representative said.

SolarCity last week announced that it bought two Los Angeles companies that operate solar-powered charging stations, which is a new division in the company. Rive said the company envisions installing solar panels and fast-charging equipment in homes of people who are seeking a so-called carbon-free lifestyle.

"These bank branches are what I call enabler locations because they allow EV drivers to take longer trips and thereby use the EV as their primary car," Tom Dowling, infrastructure manager for electric-vehicle charging at the Electric Auto Association, said in a release. "Solar-powered charging stations mean true zero-emission driving, from well to wheels."

 

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