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Janet Dang, of Fremont, returns a plug back to a charging station after unplugging from her electric car outside the Target at Pacific Commons in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. The city has more electric vehicle drivers than any other in Alameda County. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

FREMONT -- The East Bay city most closely tied to Silicon Valley has the most electric vehicles in Alameda County, sending a positive charge through city leaders who say their commitment to high-tech businesses has followed residents onto the road.

Fremont, where 14 percent of the county lives, has nearly 30 percent of its electric vehicle owners, according to the California Center for Sustainable Energy, a nonprofit agency that tracks buyers and gives them rebates worth up to $2,500.

Fremont electric car owners have received 1,039 rebates since the program started in 2010, outpacing those in Oakland, Berkeley and even San Francisco. San Jose, the Bay Area's largest city, has the most, at 3,158.

"San Francisco has the reputation for being a super-green city, but this shows that Fremont is quietly pushing the envelope," said Dan Schoenholz, the city's deputy community development director.

Why Fremont, the Bay Area's fourth-largest city, has become the East Bay's electric vehicle leader has lot to do with the South Bay's high-tech economy.

Soraa, Solaria, and other cleantech companies call Fremont home, and their local employees and other residents are more likely to be early adopters of electric cars and other cutting-edge technology, said Rachel DiFranco, the city's sustainability coordinator, a position created last fall.

"Fremont is definitely associated with Silicon Valley, and we have the Tesla plant here," DiFranco said. "So people trust the technology because they see it on a daily basis."

And Fremont has been making it easier for electric car drivers, who now can juice up their cars at public chargers, choosing from 25 stalls at the Pacific Commons shopping center, three at Whole Foods and four that Tesla owners can use outside the Warm Springs district factory.

Janet Dang, of Fremont, unplugs her electric car from a charging station outside the Target at Pacific Commons in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 26,
Janet Dang, of Fremont, unplugs her electric car from a charging station outside the Target at Pacific Commons in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. The city has more electric vehicle drivers than any other in Alameda County. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) ( ANDA CHU )

Fremont still has room to improve. Unlike Livermore and Pleasanton, which have chargers conveniently located at their city halls, Fremont has not yet installed stations on city-owned property. But that likely will change soon, as the city plans to place units in proposed Warm Springs and downtown developments, DiFranco said.

"Fremont is committed to encouraging (electric vehicle) infrastructure," she said. "Sixty percent of our (greenhouse gas) emissions is from automobiles and transportation, so anything we can do to reduce that is a big priority."

Meantime, the California Center for Sustainable Energy's top priority remains promoting electric vehicle sales by issuing rebates through its Clean Vehicle Rebate Project.

The nonprofit agency's sales figures are not perfect mirrors of buying habits because some electric cars don't qualify for the rebate and some buyers don't apply, agency leaders said this week. Its statistics, however, "remain a good proxy for judging how many electric vehicles are in each city," said Colin Santulli, a manager at the energy organization.

Drivers statewide can participate in the first-come, first served program, but they might want to hurry; 85 percent of available rebates already have been issued, Santulli said.

New buyers can apply for the rebate at www.energycenter.org/cvrp.

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.