The Sonoma County airport has installed 15 more charging stations so owners of electric vehicles returning from a trip can charge their cars and be ready to roll.

Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport previously offered just two charging stations in front of its terminal. As part of its recent parking lot revamp, the airport used grant funding from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and partnered with Tesla to add the new chargers, which include four Tesla stations.

“We’re trying to do the right thing,” airport manager Jon Stout said. “The county is very active in sustainability projects and we are part of the county and are very firm believers in that.”

Before the charger expansion, which also included upgrading the two original ChargePoint stations outside the terminal to the next generation of technology, Stout said airport customers who owned zero-emission cars voiced concerns about returning from a multiday trip to a drained vehicle. As a result, they found alternate, less environmentally-friendly ways to the local airport.

“It provides more flexibility for our customers,” he said, noting a need to keep up with a growing number of electric cars in the county. “It was also to provide another amenity for the airport and keep our customers local rather than going to other airports.”

Based on 2018 figures from the industry trade group Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, California leads the nation in zero-emission vehicle sales, accounting for roughly 50 percent of the U.S. market. New York places second with about 4 percent.

As of August, California had about 369,000 electric vehicles, according to San Francisco-based think tank Next 10. The public policy group estimates that total puts the state on pace to surpass Gov. Jerry Brown’s original target of 1.5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025. In January, he upped the ante by establishing a much loftier goal of 5 million zero-emission cars in the state by 2030.

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With the new airport chargers, Sonoma County now has about 300 stations in publicly accessible locations. Another 76 chargers are available for hotel guests and winery patrons throughout the county, bringing it to almost 370, according to a spokesman for the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.

County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who serves on Sonoma Clean Power’s board of directors and works on local energy and sustainability issues, said the current total isn’t enough.

A Chevy Bolt electric car driver herself, she said the county needs to explore further grant funding to add more stations at employment centers and other high-traffic areas, as well as on county-owned land so chargers can be installed without paying leasing costs to private property owners.

“It all needs to be part of a broader initiative to develop an electric trail network throughout Sonoma County,” Hopkins said. “And it’s an opportunity to serve visitors and locals alike to charge their electric vehicles at opportune locations. Given the tremendous geographical spread of our county, transportation is one of the highest impact ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.”

From there, the county also hopes to begin pursuing 100 percent renewable energy, or “evergreen power,” which would allow some of the charging stations to pump sustainable volts back into zero-emission cars. The airport is already in the early stages of exploring solar panels atop the long-term parking area, but must first ensure it doesn’t create problems with glare for pilots or the air traffic control tower. The airport hopes to hire a contractor for the project next fall.

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