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California City To Change Building Codes To Allow Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

Over the last several years, California has seen a huge upswing in the number of electric vehicles purchased, and with it a desire for more infrastructure to accommodate owners’ home recharging needs.

In California, the City of Palo Alto’s city council is unanimously supporting a proposal to change the city’s building code to require new homes to be pre-wired to support 240v level 2 chargers. Photo courtesy of Treehugger.com.

This is an increasingly important issue for the state, which found in a 2012 study conducted by the California Center for Sustainable Energy that about 1,000 new plug-in vehicles were being sold every month, and in total, Californians owned more than 12,000 plug-in vehicles at the time of the study (roughly 35 percent of all plug-in vehicles in the United States).

And while so far buying an electric vehicle has come with a lot of rebates and incentives for the vehicle itself, there really hasn’t been much cost help given for other needs, like home infrastructure.

A major stumbling block for many buyers wanting to buy an electric vehicle has been the cost of installing a home charging system. Grist reported that in Palo Alto, Calif., “to wire a new house for an electric vehicle charger, it costs under $200 – a quarter of the price tag for installing a charger at an existing home.”

To address this issue, Palo Alto’s city council is working on an ordinance that would require all newly constructed single family homes to include the necessary circuitry for electric vehicle chargers.

The city said the purpose of the ordinance is to provide a low cost option for homeowners that want to purchase an electric vehicle without necessitating the retroactive installation of higher capacity electrical wiring and supply equipment.

The newest draft of the ordinance would require a new single family construction to provide as a minimum, a panel capable of accommodating a dedicated branch circuit and service capacity to install at least a 208/240V, 50 amperes grounded AC outlet (Level 2 Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment – EVSE). The raceway should also have the capacity to accommodate a 100-ampere circuit.

The ordinance also specifies that the location of the charging station can either be on the inside or outside of the home, but needs to be in close proximity to an onsite parking space.

In discussions with the EVSE Task Force, electric vehicle advocacy members have been encouraging the city council to recommend at least two outlets per dwelling, however others are discouraging this idea.

Consultants in the development community, including public authority utilities are telling the city council that the costs for potentially mandating circuitry and capacity for two outlets “would be overly burdensome.”

Recommendations from the city council’s policy and services committee suggest on the issue of two outlets that, “An increased mandate would be an additional cost in upgrading the panel, possibly upgrading the transformers that supply the home as well as possibly the supply lines that feed the home.

“The cost could be in the magnitude of several thousands of dollars to the homeowners.” Currently, the city also charges a fee for the inspection of electric vehicle charger installations.

Last week, the city council said in its staff report that, “Going forward the remaining policies that need to be crafted will take approximately  six months of effort” in cooperation with groups including electric vehicle advocates, installers, and contractors.

The staff report also added that, “Going forward into the first part of 2014, the staff intends to continue the meetings with the EVSE Task Force to draft recommendations for new multi-family, non-residential, and hotel construction.

“In addition, the staff will be reviewing the EV permit fees and process to ensure it is cost neutral and EV friendly. The staff will also be bringing forward recommendations for curbside charging on the public right-of-way.”

Reader comments and input are always welcomed!

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