Oct 23, 2019

Tesla, ChargePoint push building code changes to boost EV charging

An electric vehicle charging station. Photo:Matt Jonas/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images.

Electric vehicles are getting more popular, yet there aren't enough charging stations installed where people spend their time (at home, at work, at the store, etc.) to support widespread adoption.

The big picture: California's Green Building Standards Code requires 6% of parking spaces in new non-residential buildings to be EV-capable.

  • It also mandates that 250,000 EV-capable charging stations be publicly available by 2025 — but the state is running far behind that goal with only about 22,000 charging outlets so far.

There's a reason for that: Equipping parking spots to be EV charging stations is expensive.

  • It can cost several thousand dollars per space to retrofit existing parking garages or lots, which requires ripping up cement to lay electric conduits.
  • According to calculations by EnergySolutions, it's 4-6 times cheaper to install EV-capable parking spots during new construction or ongoing renovations.
  • But not every city has a lot of new construction going on in the first place, so figuring out how to get charging stations into existing buildings will be key to EV expansion, says Anne Smart, VP of Public Policy for ChargePoint.

Why cities matter: Cities are well-positioned to incentive more charging stations because they can set building permit requirements.

  • Atlanta requires EV charing infrastructure updates when building or repaving parking or when modifying an electrical panel.
  • San Francisco requires adding EV charging infrastructure when gutting medium to large buildings.

Tesla and ChargePoint are pushing cities (and states where possible) to update their building codes to include EV charging capacity — even if the actual spots aren't yet installed — in renovation permits as well as new construction.

  • They're also pushing California to increase current minimum EV-ready building requirements to speed up EV deployment.
  • Those companies, along with the California Electric Transportation Coalition, commissioned EnergySolutions to run a cost analysis for building scenarios in retail, office, hospitals and schools — to make the cost-saving case for upgrading building codes.

"We're really transitioning away from a gas station model of charging to a model where people expect to be able to charge wherever they park," Smart said. "Not every state has the political capacity or legal ability to set these policies, so cities will be at the forefront."

Go deeper: Electric vehicles are outstripping the supply of charging stations

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2020 Democrats promise clean car agenda

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

While President Trump is moving to ease Obama-era tailpipe emissions rules, Democrats running to unseat him want to accelerate the shift to electric cars, trucks and buses and take gasoline-powered vehicles off the market entirely.

Why it matters: The 2020 presidential race could produce two vastly different outcomes for the auto industry, and that regulatory whiplash is hampering carmakers' long-term investment decisions.

Go deeperArrowNov 8, 2019

The future of parking garages

Architectural rendering of The MOD in Los Angeles showing how a parking structure could be redeveloped for workspace, retail and housing with pre-fabricated modules. Photo: Gensler

Parking garages are staples of car-clogged cities — but they are ugly and take up prime urban real estate. So building owners and developers are looking for new uses for that space.

The big picture: As urban transportation begins to shift, the massive concrete parking structures that sit under or beside most downtown buildings are being repurposed into food delivery kitchens, e-commerce distribution centers, flood protection and even urban farming.

Go deeperArrowOct 30, 2019

Destination: Future

Local leaders at Destination: Future. Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

This Wednesday, Axios' transportation correspondent Joann Muller hosted an Expert Voices Live discussion on transportation technology, digging into the new challenges and advancements that arise as electric, autonomous and shared vehicles upend our lives.

The goal: Gather local leaders — legacy brand innovators, local officials and inclusivity advocates — to identify the different pain points that come with embracing new forms of transportation.

Affordability and usability

While there was some disagreement about the affordability of electric vehicles, guests agreed that a major cultural shift was needed if there is to be widespread adoption.

  • Ron Kaltenbaugh, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington, D.C., stressed the need for model diversification: "People are interested, just the model they want isn't necessarily there; we need to get beyond just cars, we need SUVs, crossovers."
  • Genevieve Cullen, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, said charging infrastructure is essential to changing the larger system: "Smart charging is the heart of the matter; you have to make it seamless for consumers, so they don't have to understand electric load schedules in order to drive an EV."
  • Alex Keros, lead architect of EV infrastructure at General Motors, drew parallels between EV adoption and cooking, noting that the "adoption ingredients" — vehicle options, charging infrastructure, word of mouth and electrified shared ride fleets — all need to come together to capture the mainstream customer.
Accessibility and inclusivity

The group discussed how transportation innovations are particularly exciting for those with disabilities.

Kirk Adams, president of the American Foundation for the Blind and longtime advocate for the visually impaired, shared that transportation is a constant theme when talking about inclusion.

  • "As we look at transportation systems and eliminating those barriers, electric vehicles are of interest in how they support and facilitate an inclusively designed network."
  • "Many blind people are very excited about autonomous vehicles, and there is a lot of work in the community to ensure regulations will allow blind individuals to operate AVs."
  • Andrei Greenawalt, head of public policy at Via, is hoping his public mobility solutions company can help with those micro-transit connections between different public centers — an example of public and private sector integration that supports inclusive mobility.
Enacting policies

Effective policies, the table agreed, can help both manufacturers and consumers.

  • Matt Furlow, director of policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, mentioned that the Chamber has observed too much emphasis on redoing the system, "But when we think about the future of auto, we have to think about layering the policies we have on top of each other, the small changes we can make on the edges."
  • Nick Zaiac, resident fellow of transportation and infrastructure at the R Street Institute, highlighted the need to give local governments some guidance on how to carry out larger policies, otherwise "they will continue to get in the way."
  • Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, said that longer term policies with a lot of flexibility are going to drive investment.

Scott Corwin, leader of Global Future of Mobility Practice at Deloitte, summed up the conversation, "Industry and the public sector have to be working together; we will get there, but it's not going to be pretty."

Thank you General Motors for sponsoring this event.

Editor's note: The second photo caption has been corrected to reflect that Matt Furlow is in the photo.

Keep ReadingArrowNov 14, 2019