Charging stations provide power for electric vehicles. But what happens when charging stations lose their source of power?
Officials in Thousand Oaks, CA, are tackling that problem. Seeking federal infrastructure grants, they aim to build backup solar generators and batteries that will keep electric vehicle charging stations operating even during prolonged power outages, a frequent occurrence in California during high wind events.
The idea is to add resilience to selected EV charging stations, says John Brooks, senior sustainability analyst for the City’s Department of Public Works.
The project would be located at the City’s regional transit hub, and it would serve two communities of need: lower-income residents who lack ready access to charging stations and EV motorists passing through Thousand Oaks—a major crossroads—during prolonged power outages.
Brooks says he received valuable help in applying for the federal aid from the Local Infrastructure Hub’s webinars and months-long Bootcamps. A national program established and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Ballmer Group, Emerson Collective, Ford Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, the Local Infrastructure Hub provides expert support and technical guidance to help small and mid-sized cities navigate the hundreds of federal infrastructure funding opportunities and develop competitive grant applications. The Local Infrastructure Hub is delivered in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, Results for America, Delivery Associates, and other technical expert organizations.
Brooks was familiar with applying for state grants, but said federal grants “are unique. They are very specific in how you do things.” Recent federal laws such as the Inflation Reduction Act are providing large sums of aid for infrastructure improvements.
Brooks attended the Local Infrastructure Hub’s months-long Bootcamps and webinars focused on navigation and information-sharing from other cities. “I found the quality was super high,” he said. “The staff who taught were really first rate. There are nuances that are important when you write a federal grant, which I found very, very helpful.”
Brooks noted that Thousand Oaks is a relatively prosperous city. Its median household income is $113,942, above the national median of $74,580. In light of this, the City needed guidance to navigate how to communicate their needs, and Brooks hopes two aspects of the grant application will help.
First, despite the city’s overall relative affluence, there are lower-income neighborhoods that need easier access to EV charging stations. Even modest-income households in California can afford used EVs, thanks in part to government subsidies, Brooks says. “So a good segment of our income-challenged population has access to EVs. Our major focus is how we can provide charging to those who don’t have readily accessible charging… California and the feds want no one left behind.”
The resilience aspect is the second wrinkle in Thousand Oaks’ application. California has more than its share of power outages, partly because major utilities sometimes shut down their grids when wildfires are threatening. (Nearly a quarter of all U.S. power outages in 2022 occurred in California, according to one count).
Two major highways—U.S. 101 and California 23—intersect in Thousand Oaks. A prolonged power outage could drain conventional EV charging stations of their juice, Brooks says, and “tourists can be stranded. So this can be a resiliency center.”
Even if Thousand Oaks doesn’t get the grant, he says, its staffers have learned valuable skills that will help in future efforts. He told staff members of surrounding Ventura County agencies what he learned from the Local Infrastructure Hub’s programming, “and they were amazed with the information we brought in,” Brooks said.
Brooks urges other grant-seeking local governments to tap the Local Infrastructure Hub as a resource.