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Palo Alto Requiring New Homes to be Ready for Electric Cars

by Cynthia Shahan

Palo Alto, California
Solar panels at the Palo Alto Municipal Service Center. Image Credit: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious (CC BY-SA license)

Palo Alto — nestled in the center of pricey Silicon Valley — is a composed, clean, beautiful community. Presently, Palo Alto walks the talk that is clean energy. Clean, reliable trains connect Palo Alto to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Biking is very popular within the city and to nearby cities, with Palo Alto having some of the best bicycle facilities in the US. Palo Alto is extremely walkable — the neighborhoods and the downtown. The Valley appears as a big version of a clean Disney neighborhood (in animated film), with Palo Alto being one of its most recognized and notable cities. Life is fresh. And the Valley wants it to stay fresh.

It is fitting that this clean-air community should set some automobile standards to keep its air clean. It seems like an effortless move for a town that is home to the Tesla Motors [NSDQ; TSLA] headquarters. Recently, Palo Alto’s city council adopted a proposal that requires new homes be pre-wired for electric vehicles — new homes must include the installation of 240-Volt Level 2 charging stations. With homes that sell starting around $1 million, this <$200 cost of wiring is a drop in the proverbial bucket. It is a small fraction of the cost of retrofitting an older house with appropriated electrical service and wiring.

Affordability is not the only question. It is a practical one for any community. It is time. It is time for more communities to employ such requirements.

Streamlining the permitting process of installing a charger in an existing home was another move Palo Alto’s city council approved to develop more interest in electric vehicles and increase their use.

The vote for the package of electric-car policies was a clear 9-0. It is easy to see a unanimous vote for such an EV-supportive requirement in progressive areas such as Silicon Valley. Hopefully it won’t take long for others to follow on with such a move.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd added that the memo was spurred by a recent phone call from Sven Thesen, an Evergreen Park resident who has installed a curbside charger in front of his home for public use. “The thing that caught me is how simple and easy and fairly inexpensive it is to rough-in the wiring,” Shepherd said.

Palo Alto electric cars
Palo Alto electric cars. Photo Credit: connors934 (CC BY-NC license)

Other thoughts on the issue from this trendy, wealthy leader spawned in part from engineers and graduates of Stanford University:

Several council members noted that Palo Alto was on the leading edge two years ago when it first started pushing chargers, but it has not managed to keep pace with a recent surge in demand for electric vehicles.  “They really are starting to catch on and get some market penetration,” said Marc Berman, adding that he was “floored” to encounter an all-electric Tesla Model S during a recent trip to Anchorage, Alaska. “It is necessary that we create the infrastructure necessary to allow that to happen. In Palo Alto, of all places, we should absolutely do that.

But at least one council member had words of caution.”No one makes money on it. I’m wondering if in the long run we are not inhibiting the growth of popular usage of electric vehicles because we are mandating leading-edge places where this stuff is free,” said Greg Schmid. “There’s no incentive to create networks through our communities.” Schmid added that the Policy and Services Committee should investigate ways to create incentives. As part of the effort to streamline the permit process, the city council said it also wanted to ensure that fair prices were being charged. “It seems like a lot,” said Council Member Liz Kniss, referring to the $459 the Unitarian Universalist Church paid for its permit.

Jeb Eddy, the self-proclaimed owner of the fastest electric bicycle in the city, said the charger has been a hit with the public. He was among a handful of residents who urged the city council to rethink the fees. “Total strangers show up,” Eddy said. “We have no idea who owns these cars, but we’re very pleased to offer it and it’s a start, we think, of an interesting ramp-up, a kind of multiplier that we want.”

For more electric vehicle news, check out CleanTechnica’s electric vehicle archives and/or subscribe to CleanTechnica’s electric vehicle e-newsletter.

This article, Palo Alto Requiring New Homes To Be Ready For Electric Cars, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Cynthia Shahan is an Organic Farmer, Classical Homeopath, Art Teacher, Creative Writer, Anthropologist, Natural Medicine Activist, Journalist, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

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