Reuters

Palo Alto thinks so.

The city council in Palo Alto, California, unanimously voted Monday night to make a small change to the city's building code that signals a big shift in the future of private transportation. Now, every new home constructed in town will have to come pre-wired with the ability to charge electric vehicles, a move designed to ensure the city that's home to cutting-edge car-maker Tesla will also be home to the EV industry's early-adopting consumers.

Charging infrastructure currently poses one of the biggest obstacles to broad EV use (besides, you know, designing the cars themselves). If you're the first tech-savvy guy in town with Google Glass, then you get to glimpse the future before all your friends, and they're probably jealous. If you're the first guy in town with an electric car – well, you likely can't drive it that far.

Electric vehicles as a concept require at least a limited critical mass. Without enough drivers, there isn't demand for charging infrastructure to serve the cars. And without the infrastructure, who would buy one of these things?

Many cities are already at work installing charging stations in public places. But Palo Alto's idea addresses the location where EV drivers are likely to spend the most time juicing up: in their own driveways and garages. The technical requirement isn't actually that onerous. As Wired explains, the kind of voltage you'd need to fully charge a car in eight hours (a 220-volt line) already comes standard in many homes that power a washer and dryer.

But while it costs about $200 to build this capacity into new construction, retrofitting a property to accommodate an EV can run four times as much. And that's separate from the cost of the EV charging station itself (as much as $2,000).

"Not that it really matters to Palo Alto residents," Wired points out, "the average home cost is $1.5 million."

The plan was uncontroversial in the heart of Silicon Valley, but it's easy to imagine another community debating at greater length the merits of pre-wiring homes for what are, at least for now, some pretty expensive cars.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Smoke from the fires hangs over Brazil.
    Environment

    Why the Amazon Is on Fire

    The rash of wildfires now consuming the Amazon rainforest can be blamed on a host of human factors, from climate change to deforestation to Brazilian politics.

  2. a map of London Uber driver James Farrar's trip data.
    Transportation

    For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data Is Power

    Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

  3. Graduates react near the end of commencement exercises at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S.
    Life

    Where Do College Grads Live? The Top and Bottom U.S. Cities

    Even though superstar hubs top the list of the most educated cities, other cities are growing their share at a much faster rate.

  4. Transportation

    Atlanta’s Big Transit Vote Is a Referendum on Race

    As suburban Gwinnett County weighs a MARTA expansion, changing demographics and politics may decide the Georgia capital's transportation future.

  5. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

×