Decades may have passed since the Electric Slide was in vogue, but electric cars are now sliding into charging stations all around Lodi.
Seven electric vehicle charging stations are installed in Lodi and are currently free to use. Want to charge up in your own home? The Lodi City Council approved an ordinance to offer discounted rates to drivers who charge in the off-hours.
The two chargers at City Hall were installed seven years ago through a grant from the California Energy Commission. These were retrofitted in August 2012 to upgrade from the older generation of charger heads.
At the time, the commission said they had more chargers to put in, and offered five more to Lodi.
The city jumped at the chance, according to Rob Lechner, business development manager for Lodi. Within the last month, Lodi's total number of EV chargers has jumped from two to seven. The public charging stations are optional, according to California's climate action plan, but Lodi opted in.
One is on Kettleman Lane, in the parking lot of the Lodi Animal Shelter. Another is in the Downtown parking garage near the Pine Street entrance. A third was installed near the western end of the Finance Department parking lot on Elm Street. Another was placed at Hutchins Street Square near the handball courts on Walnut Street.
The final charger was installed behind the Lodi Public Library on Locust Street, near the bookdrop.
They'll be ready for use as soon as signs marking and explaining the chargers are ready. During certain hours, the parking spaces where the charging stations are located can only be used for EVs, and gas-powered cars will be subject to towing if they park in the spots.
Right now, the use of electricity through these chargers is minimal, said Lechner. But keeping them free isn't in the city's plans.
Later this year, the chargers will be removed and transported to Auburn, where a device to accept credit and debit cards will be installed. Drivers will be charged $1.50 to $2 an hour to use the stations. That's about 50 percent less than the cost of gasoline to drive the same distance.
But what about the EV owners charging up at home?
Staff at Lodi Electric Utility say they are pushing gently to encourage EV owners to charge their cars during off-peak hours. With that goal in mind, the city council recently approved an ordinance charging lower rates for plugging in an EV during the off hours, and a higher rate for plugging in during peak hours.
Imagine if six homeowners pulled into the same court at 5:30 p.m. and plugged in their cars at once. With too much demand, the transformers in neighborhoods could be stressed and cause blackouts, Lechner said.
"Rest assured, those transformers would not survive," he said. "We're doing our part to help promote electric vehicles and create an attractive charging rate."
Those who charge their EVs between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. will pay a lower rate at $0.142 per kilowatt hour, equal to the lowest residential rate. Residents will have to get a separate meter from the city to monitor the hours of use.
Charging cars from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. will cost residents $0.33 per kilowatt hour, equal to the highest residential rate.
Think you can avoid paying for the meter and plug in to a normal outlet? Your increase in energy use will almost certainly jump your bill to the next tier, costing you more for every kilowatt, Lechner said.
Lechner knows of two EV owners in Lodi, but there may be more plugging in each night in the future. Plus, visitors come in and out, and the city wants to give anyone with an EV the opportunity to charge up while seeing a movie or enjoying dinner.
"Over time, (electric cars) will gain more traction. The whole concept is just to be prepared for it," Lechner said.
Vern Vierra said he has seen some pretty exotic EVs at St. Jorge Winery, where a charging station guides travelers in for a battery boost and a glass of wine.
It was installed last year, and Vierra said they get two or three customers each month.
"It's attracted a lot of people on the road who need a charge and can't find one in the area," he said.
Vierra charges $2.49 for an hour of charging, but takes the fee off any wine purchases. If the EV trend picks up, the winery might install more stations.
A few locals are on the leading edge of the all-electric trend.
Bill Talbot of Stockton owns a brown Tesla sedan, and is occasionally spotted plugging it in for a charge in the City Hall parking lot in Lodi.
He first bought a Nissan Leaf in 2011, but the battery didn't last long enough for him to drive great distances without a charge. He purchased the Tesla in late 2012.
"When these came out, the range was so much greater. You don't have any problems about going places," said Talbot, who says his car can go for 300 miles on a single charge.
It takes a few hours to completely fill the battery. Tesla Motors maintains six superchargers throughout California and Nevada, which charge the car in one hour. Travelers who follow the stations can drive for free along the entire length of California.
There are mobile apps which chart where charging stations are located, whether they are in a parking garage or a campsite.
As a member of the Tesla Motor Club, Talbot has been asked to appear at several Earth Day events in April to promote electric cars. He said it's a kick to talk to other Tesla owners.
"We're kind of the beta testers. Every time we go to a supercharger and another person comes in, it's like a family group," he said.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.