Plug-in Electric Vehicles - Coming to a Garage Near You

With over 100,000 plug-in electric vehicles, California has one of the highest adoption rates of plug-in electric vehicles in the nation.  With already close to 20 different models of plug-in vehicles out there, we can only expect that more and more of these vehicles will be on our roads and in our garages in the coming years.  Multi-unit residential communities and commercial facilities are finding that offering this type of amenity can attract customers looking for greener options in housing and commercial space.  So where does one start with vehicle charging projects?

First – some background. Vehicles come in two basic flavors, 100% electric (only a battery to power them) and Plug-in Hybrids (a rechargeable battery for initial electric miles then switches to hybrid power of gas and electricity for additional miles).  As you’d expect, 100% electric vehicles are totally dependent on charging and will usually need faster charging for their “gulps” of power, whereas the smaller batteries in plug-in hybrids can usually get by “sipping” its electricity.

Vehicle charging comes in two basic flavors as well, low power charging (a regular 3 prong wall outlet – aka AC Level 1 charging) and medium power charging (think of a power connection for a stove or dryer – aka AC Level 2 charging).  The slower AC level 1 can provide adequate charging for many vehicles (plug-in hybrids and/or low daily mileage 100% electrics), and the faster AC Level 2 can provide adequate charging for all plug-in vehicles.  (Note: There is also a DC Fast Charge level of charging, available only on some vehicles and the chargers are highly costly and energy intensive and are usually reserved for commercial public access charging stations).

So now that you know a bit about vehicles and chargers, I'd suggest looking at some of the resources that have been developed by the California Plug-in Vehicle Electric Vehicle Collaborative (CA PEVC) by their Multi-unit Dwelling (MuD) and Workplace (WP) Workgroup.  They include a guideline for MuD Vehicle Charging and WP Charging, decision guides for property managers and residents and also a survey tool that communities can use to take a read on how many of their residents may be interested in plug-in vehicles and how soon they may appear.  Here’s the link -

After you have done some background work, check your local utilities’ website for any local resources that may help your process (e.g. ). The utilities are also an excellent source of information relative to rates, metering options and load impact on your existing accounts.  

A licensed contractor or electrical design group can help you do a walk-through and evaluate the existing electrical resources and options for your community.  When you have an idea of the size and scope of your charging needs, your contractor will handle the permitting, inspections and notify the local utility via their standard project process for any coordination needed for the additional load for your community.  

Reducing our dependence on oil and using cleaner fuel sources are both state and national priorities we will all be adjusting to over time.  The process for planning and coordination for providing vehicle charging will take time, just as any other community improvement project does.  There are no “cookie cutter: solutions for vehicle charging.  Starting your process now can help ensure the time so that you can be fully aware of the spectrum of options and approaches and have an appreciation of each of their relative costs in order to find the best “fit” for your facility.   Happy charging!


  • Electric vehicles have actually been on the market for quite a long time already. But it's only recently that they've been gaining popularity and we start seeing realistic-looking car finance prices for them. Could probably be because of the increase in support and installation of more charging stations.
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