By on September 29, 2014


Should you one day find yourself heading off to make a new life in California, and you own a plug-in vehicle, your home or apartment will already have the minimum infrastructure needed to install a charging port.

The Long Tail Pipe reports the California Building Code is set to receive an update sometime between 2015 and 2016, mandating new housing and parking lots must at least have “the conduit and electrical system calculations required to prepare for charging stations.” This would not only knock down installation costs — current installations require extensive work as far as wiring and upgrades are concerned, with a price tag to match — but could help spur greater adoption of electric cars and motorcycles.

Though installation would be made easier with the standards in consideration, charging could still be a pain. In a study b the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development, grid operator California ISO proclaimed the grid could handle the increase in load so long as the ports are limited to 40 amp charging capacity. The fear is that were the amps to be doubled without upgrades to local transformers, the grid could overload.

The trade-off in limiting amps to maintain grid integrity is longer charging times, which could be made longer when longer-range EVs and their 60-plus kWh packs arrive sometime in 2017. The Long Tail Pipe says 40 amp would deliver times of 10 hours or greater to bring the packs to full. Though the study suggests 120-volt charging, the draft building code makes no mention of using that particular method.

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18 Comments on “California Planning EV Charging-Friendly Building Codes For 2015 – 2016...”

  • avatar

    Gross misuse of the building code. But I feel that way about a lot of the building code (specifically the ever increasing insulation requirements). If they want every house to have or be prepared to have hook ups for car charging then put it in municipal codes or laws. Do not put it in building codes that were originally intended to protect subsequent buyers, fire and police when entering, and neighboring properties. If the proposed code only specified the correct and safe way to wire in a car charger circuit then that’s fine. Mandating the installation of it or just conduit and the mandate to size the service to handle it in the future has nothing to do with the safety of the property.

    • 0 avatar

      Building codes typically have a ton of ergonomic requirements e.g., staircase pitch, light switch height, electrical plug height, etc., and convenience requirements, e.g., spacing of outlets. That’s in addition to technical compatibility, e.g., standard hook-ups for utilities.

      As far as protecting future buyers, such requirements ensure that the house will suit their needs without additional financial burden. Requiring that new-build houses are capable of EV compatibility (new housing and parking lots must at least have “the conduit and electrical system calculations required to prepare for charging stations”) is hardly different.

      • 0 avatar

        By that logic ALL homes should then have:
        – fiber and cat6 pulled in the walls (just in case to make it more convenient for the future home buyer),
        – 8/3 wire AND a gas line run to the dryer and range/stove/oven location,
        – better put run wire and a gas line for a water heater too because one might have better carbon credits in the future too,
        – while we’re at it the builder should be required to design and submit for a geo-thermal loop system and install insulated conduit transiting the foundation just in case…
        and on and on.

        However, I do buy your points about the ergonomic requirements, and plug distances, etc. but I feel that those too have their basis in fire safety.

        I’m not suggesting that these thigs NOT be done. I’m suggesting that they not be MANDATED in building code. If a builder want to, as I have done with my house, try to future proof it by runing said conduit (which you’re right, is cheap) then that’s their prerogative. If a city wants to outlaw gas stations and require PHEV charging nodes on all homes then make that a law that is passed by your elected reps in an ordinace, etc.

      • 0 avatar

        Staircase pitch, light switch height, and electrical plug height are not ergonomic requirements, they are safety requirements. They were put in place to prevent falls and fires, the same is true for outlet spacing. Back when houses were first being electrified people didn’t understand how electrical systems would be used so you ended up with weird stuff like rooms with only a single outlet which inevitably was overloaded or electrical outlets in the floor of a bathroom. In my house which was built in 1890 the light switch to the basement stairs could only be reached by leaning over the stairs and if you didn’t know the switch was there you would never find it in the dark.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed, celebrity208. Building codes are intended to protect us, not to codify the latest political whims that have no bearing on safety.

  • avatar

    I’m at a loss why to mandate anything but the conduit. Given changing technologies, whatever else gets put in will very likely have to be changed.

    The conduit isn’t a big expense and can save a big expense. The second you call an electrician, you are done anyway. Your only chance is knowing one of the good guys. Sometimes hiring a company that does a specific task all the time, like installing chargers, can get you a small break on the usual hundred and fifty an hour for a kid with a couple years experience.

  • avatar

    “current installations require extensive work as far as wiring and upgrades are concerned, with a price tag to match”

    Not really. For most homes, all that’s needed is a 220 V line to the garage and should cost a few hundred bucks labor plus hardware.

    • 0 avatar

      Mine was $705, and the circuit breaker box was in the garage. If there had been conduit run to a location in the garage it would probably have saved $300. Copper wire has gotten rather expensive, especially with a retail electrician’s markup.

  • avatar

    By suggesting 120 volt charging as a practical option, the Department of Housing and Community Development demonstrates how little they actually know about electric vehicles in the first place.

    • 0 avatar

      I think 120v is useful at home or at the workplace, the car is parked for multiple hours at a time. I have used and been thankful for 120v charging at work in the past. Not sure what I’m going to do this winter in our new office building.

      What we may see in the future is the retirement of many 240v units as charging networks fail to make money on them, with a proliferation of 120v charging for home and work and fast DC fast charging for retail outlets.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that providing for a dedicated 120V circuit would be just fine. The EV industry makes you feel that a 220v is the only sensible option. But I’ve found over the last 18 months that charging on 120v is just fine at home. Get home, plug it in and it’ll be topped off by tomorrow morning.

      There’s a public charger a couple blocks from my house that I’ve used ~4 times when I needed to run more errands in the same day. But walking 2 blocks every 4 months doesn’t justify the cost of an outdoor Level2 charger and running 220v out to my driveway.

  • avatar

    A 40 amp circuit is more than enough. When I had my charging station installed, I want back and forth on what size unit to get. The car was only capable of accepting 3.3 kW (14 amps at 240 volts), but I was wanting to future proof my garage. What I finally decided was to get a charging station that would run on a 240 volt 30 amp circuit. The one I have provides a maximum of 4.8 kW to the car. For a car that can accept it, that’s about 16 miles added per hour of charge. Figuring an eight hour overnight charge window, that’s 128 miles per day, and that should always be more than enough. If you’re driving more than that, odds are much of it is on the highway and an electric is not optimal for that use.

    While I do know a couple of LEAF owners who only use the 120 volt charge, I don’t think that’s sufficient. It only adds three or four miles per hour of charging, which makes charging a priority rather than an afterthought. Also, it also means many of these cars get plugged in as soon as the owner gets home, rather than the car charging during the off peak hours.

  • avatar

    I’d push for 240…. then I can power my big tools

  • avatar

    How dare that woman use electricity to charge her car when there’s a perfectly good two-wheel foot pedal conveyance right there.

  • avatar

    It’s a silly file photo anyhow. She’s approaching the fuel filler with the cord.
    I believe the charging jack’s on the other side of the plug-in Prius.

  • avatar

    Nothing to do with “overloading the grid”. Three houses including mine are served off a 25 kVA transformer, for example. 40 amps at 240 volts is about 10 kVA. So three houses charging EVs would overload the poletop transformer, especially if all the houses are also running A/C, dryers etc.

    There’s the limitation. Who would pay for replacing millions of poletop transformers to make sure they’re not overloaded, when they’re perfectly good pieces of equipment with an over 50 year lifespan?

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