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County of Santa Clara Approves Electric Car Charging Ordinance

Pre-wiring Required of All New Buildings in Unincorporated Areas
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – This week, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved a Plug in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Charging System Ordinance which requires pre-wiring for electric vehicle charging systems in new buildings in the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County.
The ordinance applies to new single family residences, multi-family dwellings, and non-residential buildings. Three types of PEV chargers are currently available: Level 1 charger, using 120 volts of electricity and charge a vehicle in 5-20 hours; Level 2 charger, using 240 volts of electricity and can charge a vehicle in 4-7 hours; and Level 3 charger, which transfers 400-500 volts directly current to vehicle batteries, and can charge a vehicle in as short as 15 minutes. Under the ordinance, new residential developments are required to pre-wire for Level 2 chargers at the time of construction; new large multifamily buildings and non-residential buildings with more than 100 new parking spaces are required to install Level 2 chargers in at least 1% of the parking spaces.
“Despite their growing popularity and environmental benefits, lack of charging infrastructure remains a barrier for many wanting to purchase an electric vehicle,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager, President of County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors.  “This ordinance makes it easier for residents to replace conventional cars with electric vehicles, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in this county.”
Plug in electric vehicle emissions are estimated to be 75% lower than the average gasoline-powered vehicle and 55% lower than the average hybrid vehicle. According to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, on-road vehicles account for over 32% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the San Francisco Bay Area, and 27% in California. The International Energy Agency projects that PEVs will account for up to 15% of the vehicle fleet globally by 2020.
“The availability of Plug-in Electric Vehicles is growing and will continue to expand in the foreseeable future,” said Ignacio Gonzales, Director of County Department of Planning and Development. “By encouraging pre-wiring during construction, the ordinance will provide a substantial cost savings to those who would later install the charging systems.”
For a typical single family home, the installation of pre-wiring during construction is estimated to cost up to $200. In contrast, the same pre-wiring that would be installed after the building is constructed could cost up to $2,000 due to the need to tear up walls or other improvements.  
Several municipalities in California, including the City of Los Angeles and Sunnyvale, have adopted codes and ordinances requiring new buildings to install pre-wiring for PEV charging systems.
On May 21, 2013, County Board of Supervisor requested that the County update building codes to require that all new construction and rebuilds of existing construction in the unincorporated county be installed with pre-wiring necessary to install electric vehicle chargers.
Since then, the County Department of Planning and Development has conducted extensive research regarding plug in electric vehicles, held a series of public meetings, and met with developers and permit applicants, the farm bureau and agricultural interests, representatives of Stanford University, and other stakeholders to make sure that public input is incorporated in the ordinance.
The proposed ordinance was presented to the Cities Association of Santa Clara County, which represents all of the 15 cities in the county.  The Cities Association adopted a resolution supporting the County’s approach to requiring pre-wiring and use of a model ordinance in pursuing plug in electric vehicle charging ordinances in each city.
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Media Contact:  Gwendolyn Mitchell/Lingxia Meng, Office of Public Affairs (408) 299-5119; Rob Eastwood, Department of Planning and Development (408) 299-5792
Posted: December 18, 2013