An Electric Charge

By Sania Choudhary


   By the first day of school this year, a noticeable difference marked the parking lots. Sixteen new charging stations for electric cars had been added over the summer.  

   “I was very excited. I really like that Pinewood is embracing clean energy. I have been driving a 2000 CRV, trying to get the most out of it that I can. [history teacher Jenn] Bates and I had been talking about getting a new car, probably an EV of some sort, for a little while. When we found out Pinewood was putting in charging stations, it sealed the deal for us. Thank you, Pinewood!” director of technology William Bates said.

   As an administration, Pinewood had been discussing adding electric chargers to the campus, knowing that a few of the teachers drove electric cars. In the spring of 2018, a Los Altos Hills resident, George Lee, who was aware of Pinewood, approached the administration and asked if they would be interested in installing electric charging stations if his electric charging company, Powerflex, could obtain a grant that would cover a majority of the cost.

   “We decided to take advantage of the opportunity,” principal Gabriel Lemmon said. 

   A proposal was then written to the Bay Area Quality Management, checking if the school could receive grant money for the installation of the EV chargers. The plans were drawn up and submitted. 

   “It was perfect timing,” Riches said.

   In Oct. 2018, the administration received a notice that the school could be reimbursed $48,000 for the installation of sixteen charging stations. The administration received a permit, allowing the work to be completed, from the Town of Los Altos Hills on Dec. 2018. In order to keep from disrupting school, the chargers were installed during the first two weeks of June 2019. 

   “Most of the challenges we faced were technical and bureaucratic. For example, we needed to improve our electrical capacity at the school before we could add in charging stations, and there were a whole lot of permits to fill out along the way,” Lemmon said.

   Overall, the Bay Area Quality Management funded approximately 65% of the cost, and another 10% was donated by the installer Powerflex. This required Pinewood to only cover 25% of the cost.

   “Everything went exactly as planned. [There were] no drawbacks or issues,” Riches said.

   The idea of adding electric chargers was thought of two years ago, and was based on the knowledge that more and more teachers would be using electric cars to commute to school, as well as parents who would be on the campus for campus events. A growing number of students and faculty members appear to be influenced by the new chargers.

   “At the start of the school year, we had two teachers who already drove electric cars. Since school has started, three more teachers started driving electric cars,” Riches said.   

   Riches said that the electric chargers are being used as expected and were worth the cost.   “I have a feeling in the next five to ten years, we will see a lot more electric vehicles at Pinewood,” Bates said.