SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Could an idea that helped spark the solar industry’s growth do the same for electric car charging stations?
ChargePoint seems to think so.
The Silicon Valley company plans to unveil a new financing option that would let drivers of electric vehicles get a new charging station without paying the upfront cost of equipment or installation. ChargePoint founder and Chief Technology Officer Richard Lowenthal teased the news at an event in San Francisco.
He offered few details. But Lowenthal compared the new financing system to the solar leases that have revolutionized the solar industry in recent years. Companies such as SolarCity and Sunrun offer leases that let homeowners get solar panels without paying the steep initial cost of buying and installing the gear. That financial innovation has touched off a period of explosive growth.
“The solar industry really got going when they could put solar panels on your roof and pay for it with the savings,” Lowenthal said Monday. “We’re doing the same thing now for charging.”
Of course, drivers tend to be more intimidated by the price of electric cars themselves, rather than the chargers. But the chargers aren’t exactly cheap. Buy the recommended charger for a Nissan Leaf, for example, and you’ll spend about $2,000 for the equipment, installation and a three-year warranty.
ChargePoint, based in Campbell, plans to make an announcement on its new financing package soon, Lowenthal said.
Lowenthal’s comments came at the kick off of EV Week 2013, a five-day event in San Francisco, Palo Alto and San Jose encouraging drivers to try electric cars. In San Francisco, anyone stopping by Justin Herman Plaza with a valid driver’s license, Monday through Wednesday, was able to test drive a plug-in car, including vehicles from Ford, Honda, Nissan and Toyota.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee noted that the eco-conscious Bay Area already accounts for 20 percent of the country’s EV sales. But he wants more. And he wants drivers who are contemplating buying an electric vehicle to feel safe about finding places to charge in public. San Francisco already has close to 200 public charging stations scattered throughout the city at 60 different locations, he said.
“We’re making it easier, we’re making it convenient, we’re making it part of the way we live,” Lee said.