Oct 23, 2019

Tesla, ChargePoint push building code changes to boost EV charging

Kim Hart, author of Cities

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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