In a move that underlines the city's importance in driving new technology and consumer behavior into the mainstream, Palo Alto's city council has voted unanimously to make electric car chargers a standard element of new homes.
The proposed change to building codes would mean that the wiring and other components required to fit a 240 volt charging station are preinstalled in all new homes. The amendment would cost house builders an estimated $200 per home but, as some consumers have already been shocked to discover, retrofitting a car charger can cost thousands of dollars.
Even with the wiring in place, a vehicle-specific charging box will still need to be installed by the home's owner but the simple change will make installing an electric charger as easy as plumbing in an existing dishwasher or oven in the kitchen.
According to Palo Alto Online, this change, which would only affect new homes, is just the first step. The council also wants to make it easier for companies in the area to install charging stations, a move which will no doubt delight Tesla, the electric car company that more than any other has made battery-powered vehicles an object of desire and which is based in Palo Alto.
In a memo, which prompted the debate and the consequent vote, city mayor Greg Scharff, vice mayor Nancy Shepherd and councilwoman Gail Price said: "Because of the high concentration of electric vehicles in Palo Alto, the interest of our citizens in electric vehicles and supporting the environment and fighting climate change we believe that electric vehicles should be encouraged and supported...Palo Alto is one of the leading cities in environmental sustainability and it is time to review our processes, ordinances, requirements and incentives for installation of EV stations throughout Palo Alto to ensure that we encourage and nurture the Electric Vehicle trend."
Despite being the birthplace of the V8 muscle car and the first country to turbocharge a car engine for greater horsepower, the US is also home to more privately owned electric vehicles than any other country. According to Inside EVs, a blog that crunches the nation's monthly car sales figures, 129,000 plug-in electric vehicles (and counting) have been sold in the US since 2010. Yet despite the huge numbers, sales of electric cars this year, though rising, still only represent little more than half of one percent of all new vehicles arriving on US roads.