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San Francisco to make infrastructure “100% electric vehicle ready”

City to require that all new buildings and parking lots accommodate EV charging

As the spiritual home of cutting-edge technology, it is perhaps unsurprising that San Francisco has one of the largest concentrations of EVs in the world. Also unsurprising, then, is this week’s announcement by Mayor Edwin M. Lee that all new buildings and parking in the city will be designed to be “100% EV ready”.

The statement echoes last year’s requirement that all new buildings in San Francisco have their roofs fitted with solar panels. Together the two mandates show a commitment to the deployment of sustainable energy in the city.

According to Mr. Lee, “San Francisco is working towards smart, long-term investments and policies that reduce pollution and make sense economically. We are committed to continuing our leadership on fighting climate change. By improving access to electric charging citywide, San Francisco is accelerating our transition to a clean-energy transportation future.”

An example of what the city hopes to achieve is the way in which it intends to make parking lots more accessible to EVs. To begin with, 10% of all parking spaces in residential and commercial buildings must be able to immediately accommodate EV charging. In Mr. Lee’s words they must be “turnkey ready”. In addition, another 10% of spaces must be “EV flexible”, in other words ready to upgrade to provide EV charging as soon as demand requires it. Finally, the remaining 80% of spaces not specifically set aside for current or future EV accommodation must nonetheless be “EV capable”. This means that they must be structurally able to be converted to provide EV charging should demand necessitate it.

By preparing buildings for future upgrades in this manner, the city expects to reduce the cost of installing an EV charger by 75% of the cost of carrying out an upgrade on a non-“EV ready” building.

The city-wide mandate on EV-ready parking spaces more than triples that of the state as whole, despite the fact that California is one of the most progressive regions when it comes to incentivising EVs. State legislation only requires 3% of new parking spaces to be capable of EV charging.

Solar panels on a San Francisco home

Last October, a similar proposal from the EU called for every new or refurbished home in Europe to be fitted with EV charging infrastructure. Echoing many of the comments concerning the San Francisco plan, supporters of the European proposal saw it as vital for the incentivisation of EVs. Guillaume Berthier, head of EV sales and marketing at Renault, claimed that “this kind of market stimulus is not just positive, it is mandatory if we want to see a massive rollout of electric vehicles in the near future.”

Whilst news of the mandate will likely be praised by environmentalists, it is unlikely to be without its detractors. Following the city’s decision to mandate the installation of solar panels on new roofs, Timothy Seppala at Engadget suggested that the move might amount to nothing more than political grandstanding. Whilst he was not against the legislation in theory, he pointed out that there were very few new buildings planned that would fit the necessary criteria for them to require solar panels. The same concern would therefore apply to the parking lot legislation.

Nonetheless, it suggests that the city will be bullish in its attempts to promote and serve EVs. Plug-in vehicles will only become more prominent, and “EV ready” buildings will make the transition much easier. Indeed, as such vehicles already make up a significant fraction of San Francisco’s fleet, such a pledge appears to be genuine, at least on practical grounds.


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