California Set to Enact Laws To Improve Access for Electric Car Charging

By · September 12, 2013

Electric vehicle charging infrastructure will grow considerably over the next few years.

A pair of laws currently on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk could greatly improve electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the state. California AB1092 require changes in the building code so that new multi-family dwellings are required to wire for electric car charging infrastructure, and SB454, the Electric Vehicle Charging Stations Open Access Act, would simplify access to EV charging stations.

Home charging is the most convenient way to charge an electric car, but apartment and condominium dwellers usually don't own a parking space, so they're at the mercy of landlords and home owners associations to get chargers installed. Existing state laws (SB209 and SB880) prevents those parties from outright blocking EV charger installation, but that wasn't enough.

AB1092 requires that the California Building Standards Code be amended to require "infrastructure" for electric vehicle charging in multi-family dwellings and non-residential places like businesses, and shopping centers. The code amendment would occur sometime after Jan. 1, 2014. The law, as worded, doesn't outline specifically how these changes will work, but it does require that the California Green Building Standards Code be used as the starting point. Those voluntary standards require that at least 3 percent of parking spaces in multi-family dwellings have the wiring to allow charging station installation. At non-residential buildings, such as office buildings, at least 10 percent of parking spaces should be designated for "low emitting" cars, like electric vehicles.

Open Access

SB454 is more sweeping. It seeks to increase access to all charging stations . As Jay Friedland, Legislative Director of Plug-in America, put it to the State Senate committee: "Can you imagine a scenario where you pull into a gas station and you don't know whether or not it will take your credit card and you don't know how much the gas is going to cost you?"

Friedland described SB454 as having a "fairly simple purpose," which is "to allow consumers with plug-in cars to use electricity as a transportation fuel in a similar or better way than those who are still driving gasoline cars are able to access gas stations today."

Anybody will be able to drive up to any charging station and use it—whether or not they have a membership arrangement with the station owner. Further, all fees to use the station, including "roaming fees for nonmembers," must be fully disclosed at the charging stations. The current practice of charging station network membership can continue, but the charging stations will have to allow anybody with a credit card to use their stations as well.

Another provision in SB454 aims to create conditions whereby a member of one charging network could use their membership card at charging stations owned by other charging networks.

The charging station industry, through a committee of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), is developing "interoperability billing standards" that will enable using charging stations as freely as we use ATM machines today. EV owners will be able to use a larger set of charging stations, but might have to pay a roaming charge, just like you pay ATM fees at some machines (at banks where you do no have an account).

If the charging station industry does not finalize these interoperability standards, then the California Air Resources Board (CARB) may develop such standards. On the other hand, if the industry does finalize the standards, then CARB may adopt those standards instead. In other words, one way or another, billing interoperability must be implemented.

Gov. Brown will have until October 13 to sign or veto the measure or it will become law without his signature.

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