The warehouses on Cesar Chavez Street by Pier 80 aren’t much of a travel magnet in their current state, serving as Penske rental truck storage facilities, but if autonomous vehicle company Cruise has its way, they’ll be the site of a high-capacity electric vehicle (EV) charging facility by 2022.
Earlier this year Cruise announced its intention to build an EV charging station at 630, 640 and 800 Cesar Chavez to support rollout of its self-driving fleet. The company hopes to offer on-demand driverless transit in San Francisco by 2023. The site, which Cruise purchased earlier this year, would house engineers and mechanics, as well as 50-odd charging places.
“It’s really always been partly in the scope,” Robert Grant, senior vice president of government affairs and social impact said. “Part of the challenge of getting to scale is getting the necessary infrastructure” to support increased numbers of EVs.
Cruise was founded in San Francisco in 2013 and has been test-driving fully autonomous vehicles since 2020, deploying roughly 200 cars. The facility would feature Combined Charging System chargers, which the company’s Chevy Bolts use and that’re compatible with a broad swath of EVs, including models manufactured by Ford, Honda, Tesla, and General Motors, a majority shareholder of Cruise. The facility will source its electricity from Hetch Hetchy Power. Cruise is working with Pacific Gas and Electric Company to make necessary upgrades to the area’s distribution infrastructure to support high-capacity charging.
Cruise’s Chevy Bolts would use most of the charging stations. Two would be available to the public, Grant said. How those spots would be managed — time limits; the need for reservations — hasn’t been decided yet, but “what we do want people to know is they’ll be available and free,” he added.
“I know the site, I think it’s a good use,” said Keith Goldstein, Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association president. “I would hope that it would bring much-needed employment to the area.”
The company will work with local labor unions to employ staff at its site, including janitorial and maintenance crews, Grant said.
“Chavez, for us, can be an example of how the private sector and communities can work together,” he added. “We can make it and do it in such a way that feels inclusive, that doesn’t feel intrusive to the community.”