California moves into solar-charging fast lane

Solar panels on the roof of a California bank.SANTA MARIA, Calif. — A state famous for its sun will soon become the first state in the country to offer drivers a chance to zip from one major metropolitan hub to the next on sun power alone thanks to an innovative partnership between SolarCity and Rabobank N.A.

SolarCity, a California-based solar company, and Rabobank, a California community bank, announced Tuesday (Sept. 22) that they will work together to create the world’s first solar-powered, fast-charge electric car charging corridor in California.

When complete, the corridor will include five locations between San Francisco and Los Angeles, allowing all-electric cars to make the trip carbon-free with solar energy while also providing for the fastest charge time available for public EV charges.

“This charging station corridor demonstrates an important component of SolarCity’s vision for a carbon-free lifestyle,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive.

Tesla Roadster plugged into a charging stationWhen completed, the corridor will allow drivers to travel from L.A. to San Francisco while producing no emissions at all.

Four of the five chargers that will form the corridor are online, with a fifth slated to come online Oct. 15. The four active plug-in stations are located in Salinas, Atascadero, Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo, Calif. with the fifth in Goleta.

Currently, one of the stations — Santa Maria — is solar-powered. SolarCity is in negotiations with Rabobank to install additional solar arrays for the other four stations. After solar is installed on the additional four stations, the five-station charging corridor will form the world’s first all-solar-powered EV charging corridor.

The SolarCity-owned and operated corridor, built in cooperation with EV manufacturer Tesla Motors, will provide a full charge in one third the amount of time of other charging stations.

In addition to providing renewable energy to charge electric cars, the systems will offset electricity used by several Rabobank N.A. locations.

“We hope that this corridor of charging stations provides new travel opportunities for electric vehicle owners and gives further momentum to the renewable energy movement,” said Marco Krapels, co-chair of the Rabobank’s Corporate Social Responsibility committee.

The corridor would be the first interregional effort of its kind and would be the first to include solar power at all charging stations.

“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,” noted Tom Dowling, electric vehicle charging infrastructure manager for the Electric Auto Association. “Solar-powered charging stations mean true zero-emission driving, from well to wheels.”

“Solar-powered charging stations mean true zero-emission driving, from well to wheels.”
–Tom Dowling, electric vehicle charging infrastructure manager for the Electric Auto Association

Funding for the charging infrastructure equipment was provided by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), in coordination with Tesla Motors.

SolarCity logoCalifornia-based SolarCity serves more than 500 communities in California, Arizona and Oregon. It is expanding quickly thanks in part to its groundbreaking SolarLease program which allows many homeowners to switch to solar power and pay less for electricity than they are currently paying to their electric utility. Additionally, SolarCity has installed more than 100 solar home charging stations for Tesla owners.

Rabobank, N.A., a California community bank, provides personalized service and a full array of products to individuals, businesses, and agricultural clients. The bank has completed a 30 kilowatt solar installation at its South Broadway branch in Santa Maria and is evaluating installing solar at additional locations.