Palo Alto City Council Approves Mandate To Require EV Charger Wiring In New Home Builds

SEP 25 2013 BY JAY COLE 71

New Homes In Palo Alto May Now Come Pre-Wired For Operation, Saving Would-Be EV Owners Hundreds Of Dollars

New Homes In Palo Alto May Now Come Pre-Wired For Operation, Saving Would-Be EV Owners Hundreds Of Dollars

Following an initiative first seen in Vancouver, Canada, city council in Palo Alto have taken the first steps to requiring new homes to come pre-wired for chargers, as the group has approved a proposal to change regulations.

Any Decent "Green Home" Project Has A Dedicated Line Installed For Future Electric Vehicle Chargers

Any Decent “Green Home” Project Has A Dedicated Line Installed For Future Electric Vehicle Chargers

On Monday, Palo Alto Council members voted unanimously (9 – 0) to change the building code in the city to make home EV charging an easier proposition.  The idea was first brought to the table by Mayor Greg Scharff, Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd and Council Member Gail Price.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, the council did not stop there, and also endorsed related proposals to make obtaining permits for charge installs easier and also to “develop strategies to further encourage electric vehicle use in Palo Alto.”

“Let’s figure out as a council what we can do to remove the obstacles to owning electric vehicles in Palo Alto,” Scharff said before the unanimous vote. “I think what we really need to do is make it convenient, easy and economical.”

“The thing that caught me is how simple and easy and fairly inexpensive it is to rough-in the wiring,” Vice Mayor Shepherd said.

Scharff also noted that the cost of wiring of EVSE outlet in a new home is usually less than $200, which she estimated was four times less than the cost of an install into an existing structure.

The Mercury News reports there was one council member with some trepidation on the mandate:

“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 did note that the Policy and Services Committee should investigate ways to create incentives as well.

San Jose Mercury News, hat tip to KenZ

Categories: Charging


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71 Comments on "Palo Alto City Council Approves Mandate To Require EV Charger Wiring In New Home Builds"

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Jay . . . the law DOES NOT REQUIRE CHARGERS. Please don’t report it that way. It merely requires the pre-wiring for a charger . . . some conduit and maybe some wire. That is like $20 in parts and some labor. That is a big difference . . . it sounds very authoritarian if you say they are requiring chargers installed which many people might not ever use.

Hey Spec, you are probably right – one could read it that way. I’ll make it read more “wiring specific” for you, (=

Thanks! I don’t want the knee-jerk reaction from the usual suspects saying “Oh look, the enviro-whackos are now requiring us to spend thousands of dollars on EV chargers that we don’t even want!”

A mandate that only requires some plastic conduit from the breaker to the garage is not expensive or difficult to do when building the house.

Agreed. We have enough crazies on board here already, heeh.

Present and accounted for, sir!


Would need a dedicated circuit & breaker too.

I wonder how many amps they specified it too? Would be good if they went to at least 30A instead of just 20A.

I’m not sure what this specific regulation requires but if I wrote it, you wouldn’t even need those. As long as you have the conduit in place, you can always just pull the wires, add the EVSE, and add in circuit breaker later. And that way, the people could put in the wire and circuit breaker size that they need. I guess make the conduit big enough to handle some heavy duty wiring such as enough for 240V and 100 Amps. That would be some big conduit . . . but plastic/EMT is cheap.

I ran 40amps and hard (not flexible) conduit. I think I was out of home depot for under $100. The #8 wire is the most expensive part.

Note Nissan specifies 40 amps even though they only use 30. I did what they literally specified to do.

I think that they specify 40 amps while only using 30 is because that would lessen the chance that the wire would overheat and melt and maybe cause a fire. So they take what the expected amperage of the electric car and size the wire to be able to take 33% more looks like. That is fairly normal I think.

I know what they meant. They meant put in a 240V line to the garage or carport with the appropriate high-amperage breaker on the circuit. It IS a cheap thing to do while building. In Europe they call these special high-power circuits “normal household power circuits”.

And in Europe, and at Tesla, they call the thing that allows you to plug into a naked 240 wall outlet (exactly like Americans and non-Tesla owners plug into naked 120V wall outlets) “the cord that came with the EV from the factory for free because boy wouldn’t it be retarded if they didn’t ship with one!”

What is the normal current rating of those household sockets?

As i understand 120v lines, are typically 15 amp minimum, the 240v spec comes in so many different amp ratings that I’m not sure there is a “normal”. 20, 30, 40, or 80 amps are all EV “L2” ready, just different charge rates. The three 240v wired units in my home, including dryer, are 40, or less.

I wouldn’t want a short run of 12/2, or even 10/2, as pre-wiring for an EV, especially in Palo Alto. 11 miles of range, per hour, isn’t great @20 amps. Code should support 40amps minimum, just my opinion.

Depends a bit where in Europe. The “Schuko” style socket is probably the most common, and it’s 230V 16A.

Since the law does not require installation of a charger, I also doubt seriously they are going to be able to *require* a specific location for the charger. Garage? back? front? My charger is outside so I can use it from the driveway. I have far better uses for my garage than to put things in there that are already weatherproof.

Without a specific location, running the wire is meaningless.

This is what happens when idiot politicians get involved in technical matters.

Really? You think it is ‘meaningless’ to have a 240 line run to the garage just because the don’t specify a specific location in the garage? LOL.

Wrong. Once you are in the garage, it is easy to add just a little bit more conduit to go to a different location if you don’t like the particular spot where the builder terminated. Even if you want it outside, it is clear that your driveway is going to be adjacent to your garage.

Yes, I do. My breaker panel is in the garage, just like perhaps %99 of all houses with an attached garage. What wall on the garage would you like the charger? Do you want a politician to decide that?

My panel is not inside my attached garage, and I want my politician to require a simple 240v capable in new construction.

I want my politician to require 240v in the garage for new construction.

Our panel is not in our attached garage, and all outlets in our garage are 120v. I’m getting quotes for adding, and it is more than the cost of the Clipper Creek LCS-25 charger I want. It is more cost effective to add when the house is being built.

My breaker panel is at the opposite corner of the house, as is the case for a significant fraction of the city (power is distributed by overhead lines running behind all buildings, so as to not be as visible from streets).

With no crawl space nor attic (yes, it’s one of those ’50s concrete slab, flat/low-slope roof construction), adding 240V to the garage required extensive roof work, to the point where reroofing at the same time made sense.

Yes, absolutely yes, I want my city to require builders to spend a few extra bucks on a wiring or conduit, as those will save thousands to owners later on, and remove one important barrier to the adoption of plug-ins.

Good move Palo Alto, I hope others will follow.

So if the law doesn’t help you specifically then it is a stupid law?

You’re over thinking it Scott. Local governments already mandate GFCI outlets within three feet of water sources. But they don’t mandate that the outlet be a specific color.
If you are buying a new house that is part of a development, you will be asked a lot of questions by the builder such as what color carpets you want. This will be just one more question asked by the BUILDER. “And where do you want the car charger port located? … Ok, left side of the garage? No problem.” Or… “Oh, you don’t care? we’ll put it near the service breaker box.”

One thing everyone is forgetting is mandating provision for an EV Charger Dock is also mandating Service Entrance capacity calculation. If a loophole in the law allows, the Contractor would be better served installing provision specifically for a GM VOLTEC, (he could reasonably assume that since the best sellers are Leaf’s and Volts, then 3.3 kw is all that is necessary). It would be interesting to see the exact text of the requirement. But I bet it would be cheaper for the Contractor to actually run the 12/2 romex and install a 20 amp breaker specifically for a planned 15-16 amp charger dock. Anything much larger, and it would require an enlargement from 100 to 150 amps or 150-200, or 200-250. This would cost far more than the $40 of romex and one more double pole 20 amp breaker.

Great for Palo Alto! This concept should be adopted throughout CA rather quickly.

Actually what this does is put the cost of the install back on the homeowner, instead of using city/state funds for an incentive to pay for the install, where now more dollars can go toward buying the actual charging units.

“There’s no incentive to create networks through our communities.”

Sounds like he is still stuck with a gas station mentality. Not able to process the concept that the gas station will be in the owners garage. So no need to look for a gas station after you already filled up.

This should be adopted across the country, IMHO. But it is hard to do that since building codes are a local thing. However, the DoE should set up a suggested “model code” that would include this EV pre-wiring thing. They should also include simplified codes for allowing PV systems to be installed easier . . . as is, the installers have to deal with a patch-work quilt of different contradicting codes.

Let’s not for the 41% (and increasing) portion of the population that rents adn does NOT own a home. They must have a publicly accessible network or they cannot gain the benefits/savings of a plug in vehicle.

Focusing solely on property/homeowners is an inherent transfer of wealth from that 41% to the property owners whether it is subsidies for installs/purchases or the savings from operation.

Yeah, I would love to see a law requiring conduit to be run to all apartment parking places.

Interestingly, some canadian provinces have such laws (e.g. Alberta; maybe Alaska has it?) but the power is for block heaters so it”s only 110V.

95% of the time use 110V for my leaf. Would be great if there were a similar law here in the U.S. for apartments.

That would be a great article. I am 99% on 110V with a Volt but a Leaf is much more radical to popular perception.

This is great news. After all, it costs a fraction of the money to have an electrician run the wire and leave a blank plate on the wall while the house is being built. But when it comes time to install the EVSE, things will be much easier and cheaper. One problem that is often overlooked is the cost of installing an EVSE. While you can buy a level-2 EVSE for around $500, it often costs $2,000 or more by the time installation is included. That has been one of the benefits of the PHEV since most can get by with a regular 120V outlet and save some money on charging equipment and install.

Yeah, this is sadly the case. Especially if you have an older home with a relatively small electrical service. A previous home I had only had 60 Amp service! My current home had 100 Amp service but that wasn’t enough so I upgraded to 200 Amp service with a big breaker panel so I could add both an EVSE and my 6KW charging system. I am now my own power plant. 🙂

Really, as Spec wrote, you just want large conduit. PHEV owners may be happy with 3.3kW charging, but for BEV, especially if Tesla goes Borg on the market, you might want some pretty chunky wiring, maybe even with a spare NEMA or J1772 socket for your visitors.

Just running some conduit in the wall during construction isn’t that big of a deal. As long as they make sure it’ll support both traditional cord charging as well as wireless charging from something mounted on a garage floor.

“New Homes In Palo Alto May Now Come Pre-Wired For Operation, Saving Would-Be EV Owners Hundreds Of Dollars”

So all new home buyers have to pay extra for wiring that only a few people will use. Anybody else see a problem here?

This adds about $200 to the house. A typical Palo Alto house is more than $1Million. So your house is going to cost a whopping 0.02% more! My god! Those jack-booted enviro-whacko thugs are going to drive everyone to the poor house! Thank you for showing us the light!

It will improve re-sale value of the house for pennies.

Meaningless drivel. Could mean anything or nothing at all. A spare spot where a 220v breaker can go. In other words, all houses currently being built.

Your post is meaningless drivel. Clearly the rule will require rough-in of wiring to the garage.

To where in the garage exactly????

And what level of wiring/circuit breakers, etc.?

Dude, a huge percentage of homeowners are going to end up *moving* the charger location. Put it in the garage, a lot of folks are going to want it outside, and vice-versa. A lot of folks, even the rich ones, end up using only half the garage and then use the other half for storage. So that means you want the charger on a specific side.

You are missing the point here. This mandate just adds costs to the construction, and probably most of that is going to be wasted on everyone except for the electrician’s kids in college.

Without a mandate for the location of the charger, and thus a need to run conduit, the law is meaningless. All new homes have panels able to support a 240v line to a car.

I disagree – Mandiating a 240V drop to ANYWHERE in the garge is good enough for me. If your panel is already in the garage, then just have spare space for 2 breakers seems adequate. I would like to see the actual PA proposal, as I’m curious how specific things are.. Have a rough in (conduit, and or wire) or at least the capability to get high current 240V (dryer or range outlet?) into the garge would go a long way to make charge installations less of a hassle. I don’t the building codes needs to concern itself about in/out side, front, side wall etc. – Just get a 240V rough into into the garge, as someone said above, you don’t even need to buy the breakers – just make the setup easier down the road, verus tearing out drying and insulation to route a heavy gauge wire from the panel to the garage. If that putting the service drop and panel in the garage is enough to satisfy this code, that works for me. (as I mentioned below, I have an attached garage, and the power panel is in the basement – this set up isn’t a show stopper,… Read more »

No, you don’t get it. If the main panel is on the opposite side of the house as the garage & driveway then it could take literally thousands of dollars and clunky-looking retrofit to get conduit running from the main panel to the garage. If you have conduit from the main panel to the garage then someone can very easily add an EVSE. If you don’t like their termination spot then run conduit a few feet more from their termination spot to where you want it.

“Scharff also noted that the cost of wiring of EVSE outlet in a new home is usually less than $200, which she estimated was four times less than the cost of an install into an existing structure.”

So 100% of new home buyers pays $200 so that 4% of new home buyers who happen to be EV owners can save $600. Let’s see, $200 X 100 = $20,000 compared to $600 X 4 = $2400. The good folks of Palo Alto might want to think about electing representatives that understand simple economics.

They understand things better than you do. As I pointed out, it adds a big 0.02% to the house price. And where do you come up with your 4% figure? Because of current adoption? Guess what . . . times change. Adoption will grow over the time so it will be more that 4%. The $600 number is also low . . . good luck getting someone to do run the conduit & wiring for only $600 around here unless the main panel happens to right next to your garage.

Spec, I don’t have a problem at all with EVs, I just think they’re still a bit too expensive for my taste. My problem is government trying to push something on me that I don’t want yet. Or conversely, making me pay for something (thru tax incentives, that I pay for) that I don’t want yet. The $600 was Scharff’s number, not mine. ($800 installation less the $200 in the prewiring). The 4% was from a national study, I’m sure it’s more in CA. And I must admit I did not realize Palo Alto homes average $1 Million, but it really does not change my point, which is Palo Alto legislators are costing the public $20K for every $2.4K they save the public. You can adjust the assumptions as you like, but the result will still be lopsided in favor of this being a huge waste. Maybe when EV use is around 40% instead of 4%, it might start to make financial sense. “My god! Those jack-booted enviro-whacko thugs are going to drive everyone to the poor house! Thank you for showing us the light!” One last comment, I don’t think ridicule makes a very pursuasive argument.

I think the point is that if charging infrastructure is more readily available, at home and wherever else, EV ownership that is now only 4% will grow. When EV ownership exceeds 33%, the economics favor doing it ahead of time instead of retrofitting. That might seem like an impossible growth spike in the short term, but over the lifetime of a house it’s not. And for such a small investment, it sends a signal that the city is willing to support EV adoption.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I believe the point of the excerise, is to get the 4% number much higher. Given the long term nature of a home builds, setting them up for the next 40 years or so to support PEVS or PHEV’s, with just a rough in (and if your panel is already in the garage, I would assume that’s good enough – Despite an attached garage, my panel is in the basement, next to furnace, hot water, etc. – So this rule would have benefited me) doesn’t seem all that bad of an idea.. given the small cost relative to a new home (which I much prefer that the homeowner pay for, versus some gov’t backed rebate or inventive) – Considering a 15-30 year mortgage, the timevalue of money, etc – $200 is nothing Fire code requires smoke detectors as well, and it’s not like that many homes burn down each year – So paying a little bit for standards that benefit society long term is a generally accepted role of any building and safety codes (hopefully, we all agree here – that greater sales & usage of EV’s or PHEV’s is a positive thing) Long term, I… Read more »

Rick I hope you’re not young enough to see the discontinued use of gasoline for automotive transportation because it would certainly send you to your grave.


Nelson, we will not run out of gasoline. It will become much to expensive to burn long before that. EVs will help make that transition a less bloody one, I hope.

Is there a minimum service requirement? My house had a 100AMP Service panel which I had upgraded 2 years ago to 200AMP for future growth.


It only cost me $200 to add a 240V 40A outlet in my garage. It helps having the electric panel in the same area.

Excellent news, thanks for the coverage. It’s mostly Steve Thesen’s work, but there were numerous others, who helped. As it happens, I contributed to the letter Steve presented to the city council, but I did not expect that it would be so positively received. San Diego has passed a similar measure earlier this year, I believe.

Thanks George for your contribution!
Did you mean Sven Thesen maybe?

Boy oh boy…where does one begin. Just look at that image of the “green” house.

1. Why is there a toilet at the bottom of the stairs?

2. A fireplace on level 2 with no support under it?

3. A hot water heater in the living room?

4. A huge hole in the wall for a fan?

This “green” house is gonna fall to the ground soon and I don’t even have to mention the electric vehicle catching fire for it to happen.

LOL. Excellent observations, Eric!

He is just bitter at the awesome feature graphic I hosted. Again, the flaws are all moot once you put that super dangerous, electric horseless carriage in the garage…I hear they can ignite at any moment.

I like the toilet at the bottom of the stairs. Sometimes you just really have to go bad. No silly doors or locks to fool with.

The water heater in the living room must be one of those whirlpool gas units Lowe’s was selling for a few years,.. Before the tank failed, the pilot light would blow out twice a day. And forget about waranty Putting it there makes it easier to relight when watching TV.

Since everyone’s downsizing these days, the attic fan in the attic became a tiny fan in the bedroom wall. Must be to get that Leeds Certification.

One report and 32 comments later and I am still confused. Is the new ordinance for conduit only or is there further specification?

I think conduit only is a fabulous idea. IMO I further believe that “every” new construction of residential and businesses, particularly when it involves parking, should include a conduit requirement. Even if you get it wrong it is pennies on the dollar. If you get it right you have made your job much easier or as Spec indicated half way through the blog it gives you something that you most likely can modify and add too. Either way, the conduit allocation is super duper cheap.

That’s a fair question. The code is being drafted now, I believe. In the meantime, please have a look at a similar set of requirements the City of Sunnyvale has established last year:

Thanks George,
If I read that correctly it looks like SunnyVale is requiring both the wire and the breaker. That is pretty bold.

All – If you are interested in working with Palo Alto on city code addressing EV charging requirements for new & renovated parking structures (homes, multifamily, commercial, employee,etc) and other means to make Palo Alto one of the most EV friendly Cities in America. Peter Pirnejad, Palo Alto’s Development Services Director wants your input via a task team of internal and external stakeholders. Its going to be a series of meetings (in person, via conference call, etc) over the next 6-9 months. Send your contact info to Peter IMHO, I believe that comments that the still to be drafted ordinance is a waste of time likely come from people who have not had to pay an electrician to install 220/240v wiring from their panel to their electric car charger (EVSE). As others have documented, it can be extremely expensive to retrofit, (easily $2000+) and hence why i put forth the proposal to city council. Further on the permitting fee side, P-A is charging $249 for a residence to plug in aka install their EVSE and charged my church (considered a commercial facility) $459 for the EVSE permit. As we were lucky being able to locate the EVSE near existing… Read more »

Not much detail here. I would think provision for a GM VOLTEC (15 amp) charger would satisfy the requirement if not Level Nissan as well as Fisker and several others can use no more than this. Since this subtracts from the overall electrical service available, builders would want to comply with the requirement without triggering a change from 100 to 150 amps.

Therefore, I bet PREWIRING the garage for ev charger docks would be a 12/2 w/g romex and a double pole 20 amp breaker in the panel, that’s it. So without triggering a larger service, it is almost at no cost to them since they’d have plenty of 12/2 for the appliance, bathroom, and laundry circuits anyway. I’m hesitant about new mandates, but this is not bad in that 50 feet of romex is only a couple of bucks, and installing it before the wallboard goes up is lickity-split. It does save a big hastle later, and while 3.3 kw charging isn’t ideal, its much faster than plain 110 volts.

That is a reason I would be fine with no wire whatsoever. Just mandate that some hefty conduit be run from the main panel to the garage and leave space for a double breaker. People can then later easily pull the wire they need.

The problem with just leaving a spare plastic conduit in the wall is the AHJ (that’s Authority Having Jurisdiction) , namely the electrical inspector, will have to determine what future load is being anticipated, and add that to the exisiting service calculation size, greatly increasing the cost of the electrics. If it is not specified precisely, I bet contractors prewire for a 16 amp unit using plain 12/2 and install the 20 amp breaker for it in the service panel. That greatly lowers the cost. However, if plans have to be made for a typical model S with 80 amp charger (supposedly 2/3 of the 85 kw models have them), then that adds 100 amps to whatever size would have normally be put in, in other words, 200 becomes 300, 300 becomes 400, etc. 300 or 400 amp services are high markup items for all electricians, and the parts themselves are many multiples the price of 150 amp equipment. Of course, since this is a $million community, one could argure that the hardship is not super great. People who still feel this is too great a hardship will just have to move to a different town, apparently.

To show how much we’re getting out of my Plug In America’s National Plugin Day in Rochester (Penfield), NY, they only have a single chevy Voltec charger there (200 volts at 15 amps). Since they’ll be 13 EV’s there, we’ll all be lining up to see how much juice we can get out of a 3.0 kw charger dock. I’ll keep Palo Alto in mind while I’m charging (If they let me).

Bill, you are welcome to come & charge either on the curb or driveway at my house for free any time you want, course you have to come to Palo Alto! And they are ~6.6kW chargers 🙂

Thanks for the offer, Sven. Incidentally, I have a whoppingly huge 7.2 kw charger at home already! Since these events are sponsored by “EV Link” Im going to ask the dude how come the Schneider 2430ws isn’t compatible with my Tesla Roadster, and that I had to redesign it myself after the engineer snottilly hung up on me. Anyway, that nearby town to u (Sunnyvale?) I just checked their building permit requirements:: ] “…..Provide the type of electric vehicle charging system: Level 1 (120 VAC, 15/20 A), Level 2 (240 VAC,40 A), or Level 3 (208-240 VAC, 40 A)…..” If you take that literally, a Level 2 unit is bigger than a Level 3, per the Crack Electrical Big Experts at Sunnyvale. Therefore, I’d assume, litterally, only a Leviton 400 ($1495 list or $1099 at Home Depot) would satisfy this since it doesn’t say the wiring has to be this big, but the EVSE system installed with have to be this big. A few Clipper Creek 60’s, 90’s or 100’s as well as Tesla’s $1200 EVSE would satisfy this requirement as well as the Leviton 400. Taken literally, this would mean a 50 amp increase minimum to the Service Entrance… Read more »

This is a great idea–even if it’s just a 240V circuit breaker left available and an empty conduit to the vehicle vicinity. The installation of the outlet (which is all I have) or the wall mounted charger (which in many cases may be unnecessary) can be left to the homeowner. The next logical step will be to require parking lots and structures to have OUTLETS installed at, say every fourth stall. EVers can then use their portable EVSE’s to charge. Smart systems to avoid system overload by rotating the power and have the user pay for the juice should be easy to develop.