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Kashia Pomo Tribe plugs in to Electric Vehicle Stations


Kashia Pomo Tribe plugs in 
to Electric Vehicle Stations

Coastal Tribe taking Big Steps in Electric Vehicle World

by Fred Carr, Environmental Specialist

Kashia Early History

The Kashia Band of Pomo Indians were the first inhabitants of the coastal Sonoma County area around Fort Ross.  Kashia’s ancestral territory extended from the Gualala River in the north to Duncan’s Point south of the Russian River.  From the west, Kashia territory extended from the Pacific coast over coastal mountain ranges along Warm Springs Creek to the confluence of Dry Creek, thirty miles inland.  

Pomo Languages mapAn estimated 1,500 people inhabited this area pre-contact, and migrated seasonally throughout this territory to take full advantage of the resources for their subsistence.  By 1870, only 3 villages remained and by 1914, the United States Federal Government began the process of taking land into Trust, establishing the Stewarts Point Rancheria, a remote 42 acre parcel located 90 minutes northwest of Lake Sonoma on the Skaggs Springs-Stewarts Point Road.  

The majority of Tribal members reside in Sonoma County, and a few in Mendocino, Lake and Napa Counties.  Other members reside on the remote Stewarts Point Rancheria and the Kashia maintain a Tribal Government Office in Santa Rosa.

Electric Vehicle Pilot Project

As environmental stewards with a mission to protect the air, land and water from pollution, and to provide for the health and safety of its members through a cleaner environment, this coastal Tribe is taking big steps into the Electric Vehicle world!

Kashia Pomo Tribal GovernmentKashia’s Department of Environmental Planning began its quest into alternative energy transportation in 2010. Its goal was to acquire reliable, “environmentally clean” transportation so that Tribal members could safely make the 60 mile trip between the remote Rancheria and the Tribal Office as well as access health care service providers and other forms of public transportation, while simultaneously reducing its “carbon footprint.” As a result of the Environmental Department’s efforts, the Tribe was awarded funds from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) “Innovative Climate Grants Program” in 2013 to conduct a “Tribal Community Sustainable Transportation Pilot Project.” The Project seeks to determine the feasibility of utilizing Electric Vehicles (EVs) as a Tribal mode of transportation, as well as provide MTC with data on the reduction of green house gasses and other noxious emissions common to petroleum fuel-powered vehicles.  

The Electric Vehicles

In December 2013, the Kashia purchased two fully electric Toyota Rav 4s and two plug-in-hybrid Ford C-Max Energis from local dealerships, Freeman Toyota and Hansel Ford.  With a 41.8 KWH battery, the fully-electric Rav 4s have a driving range of approximately 100 miles on a full charge, which takes approximately 5 to 6 hours on a Level 2 240 Volt charger, or 40 hours if plugged into a conventional 110V wall outlet.  Because the plug-in-hybrid Ford Energi batteries are comparatively smaller at 7.6 KWH, those vehicles have a much shorter all electric driving range, approximately 21 miles, but they are also equipped with a modest conventional gasoline engine. What’s more, both fully electric and hybrid vehicles are equipped with “regenerative braking.” When the driver applies the brakes, it causes the vehicle’s electric motor to run backwards, both slowing the car’s wheels and acting as an electric generator, producing electricity that recharges the vehicle’s battery. As a result, the plug-in-hybrid Ford Energis have a potential driving range of hundreds of miles.

The Kashia have learned that while the purchase price of EVs is somewhat higher than comparable conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, with government rebates, the extra cost is offset. What’s more, fully electric vehicles have very few moving parts.  There are no belts, spark plugs, oil changes, air filters, exhaust systems, radiators, etc. to wear out, resulting in significantly reduced maintenance costs. And with electricity costs at approximately 1/10 that of an equivalent amount of energy derived from a gallon of gasoline, the overall cost is dramatically reduced.

Partnering for Progress

Kashia is partnering with several Sonoma County-based property owners and organizations in the advancement of alternative energy transportation and is planning to install its first EVCS on its ancestral lands at the Stewarts Point Rancheria.  They are also working closely with Santa Rosa Junior College - Shone Farm, the California Department of Parks and Recreation and other private property owners located on the coast, to potentially install Level 2 Charging Stations at those locations which will be available to the general public and become part of the EV coastal network.

What’s Next?

Kashia Tribal Chairman Reno Keoni Franklin reports that Project feedback from both policy makers and the general public has been overwhelmingly supportive.  “Literally everyone we engage in connection with this Project appears to be genuinely excited about electric vehicles in general, and the Tribe’s interest in securing efficient, reliable, “green” transportation for its members, as well as reducing greenhouse gasses in particular.”

With such a warm reception, and the obvious benefit of fulfilling transportation needs to link remote communities to health care and other public services, the Kashia are taking the lead in EV use and are conducting community outreach workshops to foster collaboration with other regional Tribal members and leaders, including the Pinoleville Pomo Nation and Hopland Band of Pomo Indians.  The Kashia are also exploring the possibility of installing charging stations at additional scenic coastal destinations including regional parks in Gualala, Bodega, and Two-Rock, and have begun dialogue with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers with regard to the possible installation of an EV Charging Station at the Lake Sonoma Visitor Center.  The Kashia’s goal is to provide a reliable, clean transportation system for the entire community!


MORE INFO: Tribal Community Sustainable Transportation Pilot Project