Why Helix is Going Electric

September 8-15 is National Drive Electric Week

September 13, 2018

Helix, SDG&E and the cities of El Cajon, La Mesa and Lemon Grove gathered yesterday to celebrate Helix’s new electric vehicle charging stations, in conjunction with National Drive Electric Week and Electric Vehicle Day on September 15.

Helix installed 10 electric vehicle charging stations at the district’s operations center in El Cajon and another 10 at its administration office in La Mesa through SDG&E’s Power Your Drive program, which funded the equipment and installation.

The Power Your Drive program is for companies and their employees, and apartment and condominium complexes and their residents, and is part of SDG&E’s commitment to comply with Governor Brown’s goal of having 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2025. SDG&E has installed more than 900 electric vehicle charging nozzles to date. The utility’s goal is to install 3,000 nozzles at about 300 sites throughout San Diego County.

Energy – primarily to pump water throughout our distribution system, which serves 275,000 people in El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and other unincorporated areas of the county – cost Helix Water District $2.2 million this past fiscal year.  Controlling our energy costs, and their impact on water rates, is a priority.

Helix maintains operations and design standards that reduce our energy demand during peak periods when SDG&E’s charges are higher, and we purchase energy through the State of California’s Direct Access Program, saving an average of 18 percent on commodity costs. We continually evaluate opportunities to replace aging infrastructure with energy efficient solutions, and smart building systems at each of the district’s facilities and a solar energy system at our operations center further reduce energy demands and costs.

Installing electric vehicle charging stations at our operations center and administration office is our latest cost control initiative. We received rebates of $5,500 from the State of California on each of the six Priuses we purchased over the last two years. They average over 75 miles per gallon and the district expects to save an additional $1,000 per vehicle per year in avoided fuel costs. Integrating electric vehicles into our vehicle fleet will accelerate when hybrid light-duty trucks become available.

But controlling costs isn’t our only motivation for going electric. Helix’s board of directors also wants this district to be part of the solution – to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the sustainability of the communities we serve and the sustainability of California’s water resources.

The State of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, released on August 27, projects average temperature increases of 2.5 degrees statewide by 2040 and up to 5.8 degrees by 2070, resulting in a smaller Sierra snowpack and increased agricultural and urban water demands.

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Front to back: Helix board president Kathleen Hedberg, Helix director Mark Gracyk, Lemon Grove councilwoman Jennifer Mendoza, Helix director Dan McMillan, El Cajon deputy director of public works Yazmin Arellano, SDG&E electric vehicle customer solutions manager Lianna Rios and La Mesa analyst Jenny Lybeck. Arellano and Lybeck manage their city’s climate action plan.

Fortunately, purchasing an electrical vehicle does not require choosing between sustainability and your bank account. Individual consumers are eligible for federal tax credits and rebates from the State of California, just like Helix. California’s Drive Clean Program provides a chart showing the tax credit and rebate available per make and model of electric vehicle.

The federal tax credit for battery powered electric vehicles is $7,500 and ranges between $3,000 and $6,000 for hybrids. California’s rebates are $2,500 for a battery powered electric vehicle and $1,500 for a hybrid. Add to this savings your annual savings on fuel, and a very important benefit exclusive to electric vehicle drivers: you can use the carpool (HOV) lane with nobody else in your car.

In a survey of electric vehicle owners by the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, 74 percent of owners said the state’s rebate was extremely or very important in making it possible to purchase their electric vehicle. The survey also identified the owners’ top three reasons for their purchase: saving money on fuel costs, reducing environmental impacts and HOV lane access.

Here is a list of electric vehicles that qualify for rebates.

Here is information on the special rates SDG&E offers electric vehicle owners.

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Helix board president Kathleen Hedberg giving an interview to News 8.

If your interest in electric vehicles is growing, register for San Diego Electric Vehicle Day Ride and Drive, on Saturday, September 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Liberty Station. Last year, this was the largest ride and drive event in the country. Saturday’s event will feature exhibitors, electric bicycles and the Kids Activity Tent, and offers the opportunity to test drive 40 of the latest models of hybrid and battery-powered electric vehicles from Honda, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Mitsubishi, Kia, Chevrolet, Mercedes, Audi, Tesla and Arcimoto, which manufactures a three-wheel fun utility vehicle (FUV).

To reserve a test drive, fill out SDG&E’s short form. According to SDG&E, people will be able to drive several electric cars within the one-hour period following your check-in time. An email will be sent to registered drivers confirming their drive time window. As a bonus, registered drivers will receive a copy of the Electric Car Insider EV Buyers Guide, a high quality, 64-page, four-color print magazine about electric vehicles.

The San Diego Electric Vehicle Day Ride and Drive event is free.

Learn More and Register at sdge.com/electric-vehicle-day-2018

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Helix general manager Carlos Lugo (left) and facilities manager Joe Garuba, who initiated and managed the installation of the charging stations with SDG&E.