I've reported in the past on two very different California cities passing ordinances that require all newly built homes to be equipped with residential solar systems. Now, the tech Mecca of Palo Alto is mandating that new single-family homes come pre-wired not for rooftop PV systems but for electric vehicle charging stations.

The ordinance, which progressed to the drafting stage after the Palo Alto City council unanimously voted 9 – 0 in its favor last week, was accompanied by two similar proposals — one would make the process for securing an EV charger permit easier and the other would help to further encourage and promote the use of electric vehicles in the already EV-heavy city which, of course, is home to Tesla Motors (and a billion and one other tech heavyweights and startups). One method of further encouraging EV-use in the city would be to also require new hotels to include EV stations for guests.

A memo penned by Mayor Greg Scharff, Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd and Councilwoman Gail Price reads:

Because of the high concentration of electric vehicles in Palo Alto, the interest of our citizens in electric vehicles and supporting the environment and fighting climate change we believe that electric vehicles should be encouraged and supported. Palo Alto is one of the leading cities in environmental sustainability and it is time to review or processes, ordinances, requirements and incentives for installation of EV stations throughout Palo Alto to (e)nsure that we encourage and nurture the Electric Vehicle trend.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the cost to hard-wire a new home to accommodate a 240-volt level 2 EV charging station is around $200 or under – significantly less than installing a charger in an existing home (sorry all you Palo Alto Eischer dwellers). As pointed out by Scharff, retrofitting an older home to accommodate an EV charging station costs more than four times the amount of performing the task during the construction of a new home.

The ordinance must be voted on again and officially adopted before becoming law.

Writing for Slate, Will Oremus points out that for a mega-affluent city with green leanings like Palo Alto, requiring all new homes to be EV-ready is more “common sense” than a “classic case of liberal big-government overreach:”

For a city like Palo Alto, the policy seems to make economic sense. It’s full of residents who want to be green and have money to spare, but lack the appetite for more radical environmentally friendly policies, like high-density housing or public transit infrastructure. If you’re going to keep building single-family homes, a nudge here or there to encourage those homeowners to drive electric cars seems like the least you could do to minimize the environmental impact. Besides, the city’s public charging stations are already in high demand. The proposed ordinance would offload some of the supply burden onto the city’s wealthiest new residents.
The new building ordinance and Palo Alto’s overall quest to cater to deep-pockted EV drivers has drummed up a feisty dialogue among those who think it’s a step in the right direction and those who think it's too severe. Any thoughts? Would you like to see ordinances like this in your town?

Via [Mercury News] via [Slate], [Palo Alto Online]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

All newly built homes in Palo Alto to be pre-wired for EV charging stations
Officials in Palo Alto, Calif. approve an ordinance that would require all new single-family homes to be pre-wired for electric vehicle charging stations.