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A new climate grant means free e-bikes for San Francisco delivery workers

Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers share Sansom Street in Downtown San Francisco on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

A state grant to reduce air pollution in San Francisco could mean the construction of hundreds of additional electrical vehicle (EV) charging stations across the city and a fleet of free e-bikes for food delivery workers.

The new $2.4 million grant from the California Energy Commission is to help the city meet the goals laid out in its Climate Action Plan, which provides a road map for the city to achieve a legislative mandate of getting to net-zero emissions by 2040. 

“There’s a lot coming just within the next year or two,” said Tyrone Jue, the interim director of the San Francisco Environment Department. “This is perfect timing with the increased amount of incentives that are going to be coming from the federal government and trickling down to the state and to the local municipalities helping them pay for charging stations.”

A portion of the funding will go to a one-year pilot program, starting in early 2023, to purchase up to 30 e-bikes for San Francisco delivery workers and gather data on how the use of electric bicycles helps reduce emissions and traffic.

While details of the pilot are forthcoming, Jue said the program will likely be open to any food delivery worker currently using a car. Participants will receive a free e-bike and free maintenance services in exchange for sharing data with the city.

“San Francisco is continuing to lead in the transition to electrifying our transportation sector and cleaning the air we breathe,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “This funding will help us expand that work to more communities so all residents can benefit from electric vehicles, and pilot innovative programs in our delivery sector.”

The current number of public fast-charging stations in San Francisco is enough to serve around 14,000 EVs. But the number of zero-emission vehicles continues to rise: According to the city, 26% of new vehicle registrations in San Francisco were for zero-emission vehicles during the first half of the year. 

San Francisco is aiming to eventually boost the number of public EV fast-charging stations in the city from 104 to 680 by 2040.

However, some neighborhoods like the Bayview lack even a single fast-charging station. Part of the grant will go toward a community group to lead an “engagement and input process” to figure out where to install a charging plaza in the Bayview. 

That group will also be charged with helping educate underserved communities with low EV adoption about the benefits of zero-emission vehicles, as well as financing and incentives available to help residents purchase electric vehicles. 

Jue laid out additional benchmarks the city is trying to reach: Getting 50% of new vehicle registrations to be zero-emission by 2025 and 100% of new vehicle registrations to be zero-emission by 2030.

He said that reaching those goals will require a “Swiss Army knife” approach that includes more public charging stations in addition to legislation that requires commercial lots with more than 100 spaces to install charging ports in at least 10% of their spaces by January 2023. The city is also seeking to install 200 charging ports across its network of lots and garages. Jue said a vendor has already been selected for these systems, and the city is in negotiations on a contract. 

Ultimately, reaching the ambitious benchmarks laid out in the city’s climate plan will require an investment on the order of “tens of billions,” Jue said. His department, for example, received zero from the city’s general fund in the last budgeting cycle. 

Still, he pointed to some signs of optimism, including an event last month that brought together the governors of Oregon, Washington and California and the British Columbia’s premier to sign a climate pact. 

“You’re talking about everything from how we transition our entire energy system to how we transition our entire transit system,” Jue said.