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New Homes Must Be EV Charger-Ready Under New Seattle Rule

A new law in Seattle will require new home construction with off-street parking to be wired for electric vehicle charging units, part of a push by the city and the state of Washington toward EVs.

Electrical wiring in many new Seattle homes will soon be beefed up to power more than just TVs and refrigerators. Cars will get power as well.

The Seattle City Council recently approved legislation to require that new home construction including off-street parking must be wired for electric car-charging. The new development rules do not require homes to have a Level 2 charger, only that they are wired to support one.

“By far, the biggest expense when installing an [electric vehicle] charger is the conduit, electricians' time, and any changes to the service panel to incorporate the new load,” explained Zach Henkin, deputy director at Forth, an electric mobility advocacy organization in Portland, Ore.

“I'm optimistic and supportive of city moves like this that normalize EV infrastructure,” he added.

The new law applies to both multi-family and single-family housing developments, said Chelsea Kellogg, a spokesperson for Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office. The mayor will likely sign the new law May 8 at the city's Climate Solutions Breakfast. It will go into effect 30 days later. 

“This legislation is an important step forward to making sure Seattleites can reliably charge electric vehicles,” said Durkan in a statement. “We need to do more to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads and to move to electric vehicles. It is significantly more cost efficient to include EV infrastructure in construction from the start."

The state of Washington is one of the top five markets for EV concentration in the country, with a goal of having 50,000 plug-in electric vehicles on the roads by 2020. The Drive Clean Seattle program is a citywide initiative to transition municipal fleet vehicles to EVs and increase EV adoption by 400 percent by 2025.

The new rules to require new developments to include upgraded wiring to support EV chargers will require that at least 20 percent of parking spaces in multifamily developments be “EV-ready."  

Initiatives like these are a step in the right direction to encourage the further adoption of EVs by lowering the bar of costs when considering purchasing an electric car, said Henkin.

“Policy like this will eliminate nearly all of those costs and simplify the process so that [a] new homeowner more or less only needs to consider the charging station that they will be installing,” he added. “Most of the time, this can be an item they can purchase on Amazon, Home Depot or another big box retailer.” 

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.