2016 Tesla Model X on the street in Vancouver, BC, Canada [photo: Matthew Klippenstein]
Of all the Canadian electric-car news that rounds out 2017, the Vancouver suburb of Richmond’s new requirement that 100 percent of apartments and condominiums be ready for plug-in vehicles may be the most significant.
Access to charging in multi-unit residential buildings, or MURBs, has long been acknowledged to be a weak link in the transition to electric transportation. It’s much less likely drivers will adopt plug-in hybrid or battery-electric vehicles if they can’t charge at home.
Electric-car charging stations in Linear City rental building, Los Angeles, with developers
Forward-thinking municipal bodies have sought to address this issue by requiring new apartment buildings to be electric-car ready.
In 2009, the city of Vancouver implemented North America’s first building code to require electric charging circuits in new homes and MURBs.
It strengthened these requirements in 2011 to require that 20 percent of parking stalls in new MURBs be able to provide Level 2 charging. Then in 2013, it required the same of 10 percent of the parking stalls in new commercial buildings.
Earlier this year, San Francisco legislated that new residential, commercial and municipal buildings would need to be able to provide simultaneous Level 2 charging to 20 percent of parking spaces.
A further one in five had to be charging-infrastructure ready, with conduit run to the other parking spaces to minimize the cost of future infrastructure upgrades.
Denver, New Orleans, New York City, Palo Alto, and most recently Atlanta have implemented similar policies.
Now Richmond’s city council has raised the stakes.
On December 18, Richmond Zoning Bylaw 8500, Amendment Bylaw No. 9756 was approved, requiring that all new MURBs feature energized, Level 2 outlets at all residential parking spaces.
Electric-car charging information from BC Hydro, West Coast Green Highway, British Columbia, Canada
Visitor spaces are excluded, and where energy-management systems are deployed, the city’s Director of Engineering can specify a minimum performance standard.
An engineering study of electric load requirements and costs found the new rules would not materially impact overall construction costs.
Not only was installing 240-volt Level 2 infrastructure installation with an energy-management system in newly built apartments cheaper than adding it later, it was actually cost-competitive with providing a standard 120-volt outlet for charging.
As with many cities, Richmond does not have jurisdiction over building codes; Vancouver is the only city in British Columbia with this authority. In an elegant workaround, the requirement for 100 percent Level 2 outlets was written into a municipal zoning bylaw instead.
Smart Electric Drive, University of British Columbia campus, Vancouver [photo: Matthew Klippenstein]
The patient persistence of plug-in electric vehicle advocates cannot be overstated, with the efforts of Don Chandler and Jim Hindson of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association meriting particular mention.
Plug-in electric vehicle advocates wanting to approach their own city councils can draw from the model zoning bylaw the determined duo have made available.
Most promising of all?
The city of Port Coquitlam—another Vancouver suburb, best known as the home of Canadian national hero Terry Fox—is considering such a bylaw as well.
Gaining a couple of such wins in quick succession may help normalize the idea of such zoning bylaws as standard practice through the principle of “social proof”—at least among municipal bodies receptive to plug-in electric cars and their benefits.