Michael Chiacos

Michael Chiacos

Michael Chiacos leads CEC’s transportation program, where he focuses on encouraging alternative transportation and a transition to more fuel efficient and alternative fueled vehicles. He also manages grants from the California Air Resources Board and the EPA to bring more alternative fueling stations and plug-in hybrids to our region.


Local Politician Supports the Green Economy - In the State Assembly and at Home

Local Politician Supports the Green Economy - In the State Assembly and at Home

In 2011, assemblyman Das Williams purchased his Chevy Volt and became one of the first locals to start driving electric. A politician with a strong environmental ethic, he was driven by a desire to live by those values in his daily life, starting first by minimizing his use of gasoline.

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in Choose Electric, Personal Stories


CEC to showcase electric vehicles for every style and budget

CEC to showcase electric vehicles for every style and budget

With 18 models of electric vehicles (EVs) now on the market—from the affordable to the luxurious—attendees of CEC’s upcoming Green Car Show at the Goleta Lemon Festival will have plenty to talk about. Join us Sunday, September 21 between 10 am and 5 pm at Girsh Park to talk directly with local owners of various pure electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in News from CEC, Green Car Show, Choose Electric, Events


Central Coast installs over 200 EV charging stations

Central Coast installs over 200 EV charging stations

With CEC's help, there are now over 200 public or semi-public charging stations available in our region. Most of them have been constructed in just the last year or two. Read on for information on charging station locations, what they do, how to use them, and how often they are being used.

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in News from CEC, Choose Electric


Michael is powering his home and car with the sun

Michael is powering his home and car with the sun

“Driving on Sunshine” is a series about people who are using grid-tied solar panels on their homes to power their electric vehicles.  More plug-in vehicles are entering the market at competitive prices, including low monthly leases starting at $199/month. In addition, more people are able to afford home solar systems thanks to solar leasing programs and group-purchasing options, such as CEC’s Solarize program.

Michael Chiacos and Sarah Fretwell
Santa Barbara, CA

Type of Electric Vehicle Chevy Volt
Leased or Purchased Leased
Size of Solar Array 2.88 kW DC
Solar Installer California Solar Electric
Leased or Purchased Purchased
CEC Solarize Participant No

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in Choose Electric, Get Involved, Go Solar, Personal Stories, Driving on Sunshine , Renewable Energy


Central Coast installs 100+ EV charging stations


With CEC's help, there are now over 100 Level 2 (240 volt) public or semi-public charging stations available in our region. Most of them have been constructed in just the last few months. Read on for information on charging station locations, what they do, how to use them, and how often they are being used. Also, get the full scoop on local festivities for National Plug In Day on Sunday, September 23.

Where they are:

Electric vehicle owners can now access 38 public charging stations in Ventura County (in Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, Ojai, and Simi Valley), 34 in Santa Barbara County (in Carpinteria, Summerland, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Lompoc, Solvang, and Santa Maria), and 15 in San Luis Obispo County (San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, and Atascadero), as well as another couple dozen spread throughout our region that are "semi-public" at car dealerships, hotels, and businesses. CEC played a critical role in identifying sites and matching interested hosts with the installation companies.


Most of the charging stations were installed by ChargePoint, Ecotality, or Clipper Creek through Department of Energy and/or California Energy Commission grant programs. The Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District also contributed to some stations.

If your business is interested in offering public charging, contact CEC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , as incentive funding is still available.

New stations are coming online every week. CEC and others upload all new charging stations to Recargo.com, a crowd sourced website and mobile phone app. Recargo also allows users to upload sites, details, photos, and comments (such as restaurants or attractions nearby).

What they do:

Public charging stations allow pure EV drivers to travel further afield, and plug-in hybrid drivers to visit a place and return solely on electricity, rather than needing the gas assist. While many EV and plug-in hybrid drivers have been easily driving their cars around town during the day and charging at home at night, public charging opens up new territory for them. For example:

  • A LEAF driver (70-100 miles range) could commute the 53 miles from Lompoc to Santa Barbara, charge up while at work downtown, and then return home without worrying about running out of charge.
  • A Volt driver (35 miles electric, then the gasoline range extender kicks in) could drive 33 miles from Ventura to Santa Barbara, charge up during a meeting or shopping trip, and then return to Ventura without using a drop of gas.

Previously, these trips would have been made on gasoline, so more public charging means more zero emission, low carbon electric miles substituted.

Most vehicles on the market charge at 3.3 kW – meaning that with the Level 2, 240-volt charging stations, they can add 10-15 miles of range for each hour that they charge. The Ford Focus EV, CODA, and many cars expected on the market in the near future charge at 6.6 kW -- adding up to 30 miles of range per hour. As charging is slower than filling up the gas tank, most EV drivers view public charging as a way to top off so they can complete a trip. Most charging is done conveniently at home overnight, often from normal 110 volt outlets, when electricity is least expensive, and the grid has plenty of excess capacity.


DC Fast Charging Stations (DCFC) are also starting to appear, which allow LEAFs and other vehicles with fast charge capability to charge 80% of the battery in 20-30 minutes. While using a DCFC in Los Angeles, it was amazing to see a LEAF go from 45% state of charge to 80% in 10 minutes (pictured above). These fast charging stations will make it much more practical to take trips in the 100-120 mile range, such as to Los Angeles, but it will likely be many years until it is convenient to take an EV on long distance road trips. CEC is working with partners to bring DC Fast Chargers to the Central Coast.

How to use them:

Most of the public stations are located in parking structures and other properties owned by local governments, some of which are free, but most charge between $0.45 and $1.25/hour to use the stations. CEC believes this is a reasonable cost -- sufficient to pay for the electricity, and sometimes the billing fees, management costs, maintenance, etc. EVs are very cheap to operate, for one dollar (using $0.15/kWh, the average residential rate and equivalent to $0.50/hour for public charging), an EV can travel around 20 miles. For one dollar, an average 25 mpg gasoline car can only travel 6 miles.

For an EV driver accustomed to charging exclusively at home, the first encounter with public charging can be a bit confusing, but becomes easy after a few tries. Read on for the details of each type of the most common charging stations:

Clipper Creek stations

These stations are mostly free and are the easiest; just lift the connector off the pedestal, connect to your car, and you're done. The good news is that all electric cars on the market today use the same standardized connector, called J1772.

ChargePoint stations

The ChargePoint stations are "smart," meaning they are networked and accept credit cards or proprietary cards. Since they are networked, drivers can see in real time whether they are in use by going online or checking a mobile phone application. The chargers can also be reserved, and have sophisticated billing and reporting systems.

The ChargePoint stations can be activated with the ChargePoint smartphone application or by a credit card with a "contactless" RFID chip. However, these types of cards are not too common. Regular users should order a ChargePoint card for $4.95 online, though users can also call the toll free number listed on the charging stations, and give the operator a credit card number.

Ecotality stations

The Ecotality "Blink" stations are also "smart," have a smartphone application, and the best way to access them is by ordering a free card through their website. They can also be activated by calling the toll free number on the screen and providing credit card info over the phone, or by going to https://blinkcode.com to enter credit card info online. Using these methods gives the user a code that they can then enter into the Blink Charger for a one-time use.

Are EV drivers using the stations?

Yes, the City of Santa Barbara's six charging stations have been used 345 times since being installed a few months ago, and in the last twelve days were used 66 times. The City notes that usage continues to increase each month, and they've recently brought two more stations online near the harbor. The City of Ventura's stations were used 245 times in the first two months, and usage continues to increase each month.

As of August 3, there are now almost 40,000 highway capable electric vehicles on our roads, with almost a third of those in California (an EV purchase rate three times higher than the nation as a whole). California also has over 1,200 new Level 2 public charging stations. Check out Recargo.com to find out where they are and start using those charging stations!

National Plug In Day: Sunday, Sept. 23

If you have an electric vehicle or want to test drive one and meet some owners, come on down to our National Plug in Day Celebration, on Sunday, September 23. As part of celebrations in over 60 cities, we have some exciting activities planned, so mark it on your calendar and check out www.PlugInDay.org and www.PlugInSB.org for details. If you want to reserve space for the tailgate party or the EV parade, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in News from CEC, Choose Electric


Electric vehicle charging stations open in Solvang


CEC helped cut the ribbon on 6 new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in Solvang, along with the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, City of Solvang, and County of Santa Barbara representatives.

These are the first of dozens of stations being constructed throughout Santa Barbara County as part of Coulomb Technologies’ ChargePoint America program. Funding for the stations comes from the Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission, and private sources.

CEC played a major role extending this program to the Santa Barbara/Ventura area as well as identifying and coordinating sites with local partners.

These new charging stations charge at 240 volts, twice to four times as fast as a 120 volt outlet. The stations allow pure EV owners (like the Nissan LEAF, and the upcoming Mitsubishi I, Ford Focus EV, and Tesla Model S) the opportunity to “top-off” thus extending the places they can visit. They also allow plug in hybrid drivers (like the Chevy Volt, and the upcoming Toyota Plug in Prius) the opportunity to charge up and travel more miles on electricity instead of gasoline.

There are 3 charging locations now active in Solvang, each with 2 charging ports, for a total of 6 charging stations—all open 24/7:

  • Veterans Memorial Hall Parking Lot at 1745 Mission Drive
  • City Parking Lot 1 at 1576 Mission Drive
  • City Parking Lot 3 at 482 Alisal Road

Parking is free in Solvang’s public parking lots and the City of Solvang currently charges $1.25/hour to use the stations.

Soon, the County of Santa Barbara will greatly expand this network, installing 18 charging stations at 9 County owned sites in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria. Cities in San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties have also added charging stations in recent months to join the hundreds of public stations that are now available throughout California.

CEC welcomes these charging stations to our region, and excitedly awaits the dozens of more coming on line soon.


Press coverage

KEYT [Video Clip]

Santa Maria Times Article

Santa Barbara News Press Article (PDF)


Benefits of EVs

EVs provide significant environmental and societal benefits to EV drivers, such as:

  • New electric cars achieve around 100 mpg equivalent, according to their EPA labels. Electric motors are 3 times more efficient than gasoline motors, with little waste heat, noise, or emissions.
  • EVs produce zero tailpipe emissions, benefitting society with cleaner air.
  • EVs reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 75% in California, as our grid is very clean, with very little coal. We currently get 20% of our electricity from renewable energy, and this is mandated to increase to 33% by 2020. Thus EVs get cleaner as they age, unlike gasoline cars, which get dirtier.
  • EV owners can charge up for $1/gallon equivalent if they take advantage of cheap, off peak nighttime charging. The money saved can be spent on local goods and services, instead of going to foreign countries.
  • EVs and solar panels go great together. 2 kW of solar allows an EV driver to “drive on sunshine” for 12,000 miles per year. 2 kW of solar currently costs around $7,000-8,000 after incentives – much cheaper than paying for 25 years of gasoline!
  • EVs are very fun to drive, with lots of torque right off the line.

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in News from CEC, Choose Electric


CEC helps kick off Carpool Challenge


We’ve all been stuck in dreadful traffic near a school. In fact, during morning rush hour on certain routes, up to 30% of all traffic can be attributed to parents driving their kids to school. The problem is getting worse as fewer kids are taking the bus, carpooling, walking or biking to school. Instead, their parent chauffeurs are getting busier and busier.

CEC and Traffic Solutions are working with the Dos Pueblos High School Traffic Committee to reverse this trend through our Walk and Roll Initiative. Our most recent project is the Dos Pueblos Carpool Challenge, a one week event that is taking place right now. CEC helped the Traffic Committee and the student leadership class plan the event and secured prizes and incentives, with a grand prize of two concert tickets donated by the Santa Barbara County Bowl!

The students are buzzing with excitement about the Carpool Challenge, and as of yesterday, over 123 have signed up to DP’s new carpool matching list, with more coming in every day. There are banners around school promoting the Carpool Challenge, school bulletins, and a preferential carpool parking area with music and a table where carpoolers pick up raffle tickets and donuts. The Traffic Committee and the student leadership class did a great job making it fun to carpool to school!

Carpooling is the easiest way for anyone to “double their gas mileage in any car.”

In CEC’s Transportation Energy Plan, ridesharing is the top strategy to quickly reduce fossil fuel use, congestion, and pollution on our roads. Ridesharing doesn’t require expensive new vehicles or infrastructure - it uses our existing cars and roads to increase efficiency. If everyone carpooled one out of every five trips they would normally have driven alone, we’d experience a 20% drop in fossil fuel use and traffic would be much less of a hassle!

Work toward that goal – visit Traffic Solution’s online carpool matching webpage to find a carpool: http://www.trafficsolutions.info

More information about the Dos Pueblos Carpool Challenge >

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in News from CEC


Free workshop: Learn about electric vehicles


Join CEC at workshops for prospective electric vehicle (EV) owners, with info about rebates, home charging units, and public fast-charging stations. The workshops will also include test drives and a conversation with current EV owners. Come to one of the workshops to learn one of these vehicles might work for you, or pass this announcement along to friends that might be considering a new car.

Free lunch is included but requires an RSVP.  RSVP today >

Santa Barbara Workshop

Saturday, January 28, 2012 | 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Santa Barbara MTD | 550 Olive St. | Santa Barbara, CA 93101
More event information...

Camarillo Workshop

Sunday, January 29, 2012 | 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Pleasant Valley School District Auditorium, 2222 E Ventura Blvd., Camarillo, CA 93010
More event information...


Why is CEC so interested in electric vehicles?

These revolutionary new vehicles are not only fun to drive, but they achieve approximately 100 mpg equivalent, produce zero tailpipe emissions, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 75% (or 100% if you plug in to rooftop solar panels). By the end of this year, there will be a dozen new models of EVs of all shapes and sizes on the market.

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in Get Involved, Events


"Walk & Roll" helps kids get to school with less driving


Every fall, many parents gear up for the chauffeuring duties that come with the start of the school year. Some of these parents are driving twice a day from as far as Montecito to Dos Pueblos High School – 15 miles x 2 round trips x 5 days adds up to 300 miles and 7-15 hours in the car per week, depending on traffic.

CEC and Traffic Solutions' Walk & Roll program and website provides resources and encouragement for families to carpool, bike, walk or take the bus to school. For example, at Dos Pueblos, we are working with the PTSA Traffic Committee to organize a carpooling registry that will help decrease the school's notorious morning traffic. Families can connect with neighbors and arrange carpools, saving time and gasoline.

The Walk & Roll website also has information on MTD's school booster buses, resources for biking and walking, and news and events. While Walk & Roll primarily works with high school families, COAST's Safe Routes to School has great programming in many of the elementary and junior high schools.

Commit this school year to using alternative transportation to get your kids to school. Try picking one alternative transit day per week and see how it goes. If you already do that, up the ante and add a few more days (or the full week!) to your routine. Driving less saves time, money and gasoline, and reduces traffic, pollution, and stress levels.

Check out www.Walk-Roll.org for more ideas. Share your own ideas and experiences with alternative transit on our Facebook page...

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in Drive Less, News from CEC


What you need to know before buying an EV


You may already know why we think electric vehicles (EVs) are so cool. EVs are around 3x more efficient than gasoline vehicles – that's how the EPA rates them around 100 mpg equivalent. They produce zero tailpipe emissions, and on California's clean grid, they produce around 75% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a comparable gasoline car.

Since the new generation of EVs started to hit the market this year, most of the questions we've heard are about range, permitting, rebates and how to actually purchase one. Here's what you need to know:

Range and charging

  • Many commuters find that they can make most, if not all, of their daily trips solely on electricity. The Chevy Volt has a 40 mile battery range and then can travel over 300 miles on gasoline. The Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV, and many other all-electric vehicles have a 70-100 mile range.
  • Most recharging is done overnight at home. CEC's Plug in Santa Barbara is working to get more public stations in place this year.
  • Many drivers install a 240-volt (Level 2) charging station in their garage and recharge the battery at night, when the cost of electricity is lower. Visit SCE for a calculator with various charging rates and other information. It generally takes about 3 to 8 hours to recharge from a Level 2 station, depending on the vehicle.


  • To install a 240-volt charging station, contact a licensed electrical contractor. The process is similar to installing a hot tub – your electrician will arrange the permit and inspection.


Making a purchase

  • These vehicles are in such high demand that manufacturers are increasing production volumes. Meanwhile they are difficult to find on the lot, so contact a local dealer to get on the waiting list.
  • By 2012, there are expected to be a dozen electric vehicles on the market, so the supply may be less constrained.

To track the latest news on these models, stay in touch with CEC through Facebook and our e-newletter.

Also, check out a green car show to see them for yourself. CEC hosts three shows per year where you can check out all the new electric vehicles. Shows in 2012 are scheduled for: Santa Barbara (April 21-22), Ventura (July 4) and Santa Maria (TBD). You can watch a 6 minute tour of the 2011 Green Car Show on CEC's website.

Do you already own an EV? We want to hear about your experience! Shoot a quick email to Michelle at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in Green Car Show, Choose Electric, Get Involved


Fifty EV charging stations are on the way


Electric cars get 100 mpg equivalent, produce zero tailpipe emissions, and reduce carbon pollution by 75% on California's green electric grid. Many Santa Barbarans are buying electric cars and we're starting to see a Volt or Leaf on the road almost every day. Since more public charging stations will make it easier to drive electric, CEC has been working to bring stations to our region.

Since we last wrote about this project in May 2011 we have some exciting news.


Coulomb Technologies -- a leading provider of electric vehicle charging stations -- has doubled the number of universal charging stations that it is looking to install in Santa Barbara County, from 25 to 50.

It has also expanded the scope of the program to include North County, and we are working with partners to place 100 stations in Ventura County.

Over the last 2 months, CEC has been helping Coulomb review potential locations for the charging stations, throughout Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, Solvang, Santa Maria, and Lompoc. The next step will be to determine the top 50 sites based on highest potential use, lowest installation cost, and geographic distribution throughout the county. We are hoping the first stations will be installed and open to the public this fall.

The charging stations are being installed for free as part of the ChargePoint America program, a public-private $37 million partnership to put in 4,600 charging stations in key cities across America by the end of 2011. In our county, installing a new 240 volt charging station built in a parking area that was designed with EVs in mind – such as the Granada Garage or Isla Vista's new solar carport parking lot – could be as inexpensive as $1,500. In other sites where service upgrades, new panels, trenching, or other retrofits are needed, the price could be as high as $15,000. This highlights the advantage of "pre-wiring" for EVs during new construction or renovations.

Santa Barbara has been identified as one of the top four early-adopter markets for electric vehicles in Southern California. Earlier this year, major car manufacturers began offering fully-functional models such as the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, and about a dozen models will likely be available next year.

Learn more:

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in News from CEC


Our favorite things: Pharox LED light bulb

Almost every product and service we rely on today is manufactured with or transported by some amount of fossil fuels. Of course, the most important thing we can do to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels is to use less. However, when you do make a purchase, we encourage you to shop for energy-smart products that use less energy.

Here at CEC, we're all about energy-smart products that help us move towards a fossil-free lifestyle and a fossil-free future for Santa Barbara.

Last time, you heard about Michelle’s favorite reusable bags, and today, we're hearing from Michael Chiacos, CEC's Transportation Specialist. We hope you'll find an idea to inspire you.

Favorite eco-product: Pharox LED Bulb
Price: $29.99
Owned it for: 8 months

Some of you may have heard about LED light bulbs, which are the most efficient lighting available (twice as efficient as a CFL, around 10 times more efficient than an incandescent). The problem is that they’ve been quite expensive, and light quality wasn’t as good as incandescent bulbs.

Now there is a new generation of LED light bulbs just hitting the market that are less expensive. I’ve been trying out a few of them and have been quite impressed with the Pharox line of LED bulbs, which dim smoothly and have a color rendering quite similar to an incandescent. They only use 6 watts to light an area comparable to a 60 watt incandescent, and are just slightly warm to the touch. Apparently they last 35 times as long as an incandescent, so if you have any light bulbs that you need to get a ladder out to change, this bulb might be what you are looking for.

I also have their Pharox Flame bulb, which produces a very yellow/orange light. On the reviews many people didn’t like this, but I find it makes a great ambient light to put in a bedroom or any other table lamp where you just want enough light to see, but not to read by.

In my mind, LED bulbs are now ready for primetime, though they are pretty expensive at $29/bulb. If the bulb does really last 35 times longer than an incandescent, there is quite a bit of savings - you could save $200-$300 over the decades. They also make a great house “cooling” gift. A friend gave me one 8 months ago upon moving into my new place and now I have a bunch of them!


You can get a LED light bulb of your own at CEC's Amazon Store in the Lighting section. We hope you'll find an idea to inspire you.


Stay tuned to hear from our next CEC staffer, Eileen Daley, about her favorite energy-smart product.

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in Get Involved, Personal Stories, Energy Efficient Buildings, Our Favorite Things


New townhouses exemplify “Fossil Free by ‘33” values



Not many new homes are being constructed anywhere these days, but Santa Barbara has a new development coming soon. City Ventures is bringing 48 LEED Platinum townhomes to East Beach. This residential project exemplifies Fossil Free by ’33

  • The homes are super energy efficient - outfitted with energy efficient appliances and are all electric, natural gas free.
  • They are constructed with many recycled and sustainable materials.
  • Each townhome includes solar power
  • To top it off, each unit will also be pre-wired for electric vehicle charging.

The units qualify as workforce housing, starting in the $400,000s for a two bedroom downtown Santa Barbara condo.  The hope is that some teachers, firemen, nurses, and other Santa Barbara workers will choose to buy here in the communities they work in, rather than commute from lower priced housing in Ventura or Santa Maria.  The condos are close to workplaces and recreation, downtown shopping and entertainment, and in a great location for walking, biking, and taking transit.

We hope City Ventures and their East Beach Collection is a hit in this community and proves that downtown Santa Barbara wants green, workforce housing, not expensive second home luxury condos.

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in News from CEC, Energy Efficient Buildings


CEC helps bring electric vehicle charging stations to Santa Barbara

Great news for electric vehicle (EV) owners and prospective owners on the South Coast - Coulomb Technologies, a leading chargingstationprovider of electric vehicle charging stations, is providing 25 (or more) charging stations to Santa Barbara County.  As the first universal charging stations in our region, they will make it easier to drive an EV. Since Santa Barbara is a large early-adopter market, many of our residents are already driving the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, or will soon be driving some of the 12 EVs due on the market next year.

The new stations will be open to the public and strategically placed throughout the region, clustered in the areas of highest potential use, like downtown public parking lots. They are offered as Coulomb expands its ChargePoint America program, a public-private $37 million partnership to install 4,600 charging stations in key cities across America by the end of 2011.

Electric vehicles are a major component of CEC’s Fossil Free by ‘33 vision because they get around 100mpg equivalent and run on electricity instead of oil.

California is an exceptional place to leverage the benefits of EVs because our SoCal Edison grid already contains almost 20% renewable energy.

This will increase to 33% by 2020, so EVs actually get cleaner as they age. Due to California's cleaner grid, an EV here emits around 75% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a comparable gasoline car. An added bonus - residents with solar panels on their roof can take it a step further by charging their electric vehicle at home. This means they're driving on sunshine!

Want to know more?

CEC leads Plug in Santa Barbara, a group of cities, businesses, utilities and others working to build charging stations and make it easier to use EVs.  In fact, this group was essential in attracting these charging stations to Santa Barbara. Learn more at www.PluginSB.org and "like" us on Facebook to get the latest news.

Written by Michael Chiacos, Posted in News from CEC, Choose Electric