May 19, 2016

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Why building codes are key to electric vehicle adoption in the Bay State

By
Matthew Mincieli
Boston Business Journal

The 300 pages of the draft ninth edition of the Massachusetts State Building Code certainly do not make for an exciting read, but they may very well be critical to the future of the Commonwealth and its transportation system.

The purpose of building codes is to provide minimum standards for safety, health, and general welfare including things like the structural integrity of the building, water and sanitation systems, fire prevention, and energy conservation. When the codes are updated, it’s often to require adoption of new technologies that not only improve safety, but may also reduce the cost of construction and maintenance over the life of the building.

That is why the Commonwealth is considering, and should adopt, new requirements for electric vehicle readiness as part of the building codes. The buildings that Massachusetts will erect under these new rules will likely be a part of our communities for more than 50 years, and during that time we will undoubtedly see a massive shift to electrified transportation.

Massachusetts has already made significant commitments to this future, joining seven other states in pledging to put 3.3 million new zero emissions vehicles on the roads by 2025. While some have questioned the viability of EVs in America, the 400,000 pre-orders for Tesla’s Model 3 sedan should put those questions to rest. As Chevrolet rolls out its mid-priced Bolt, and others follow with similarly priced, long-range EVs, the shift away from fossil fuels to electric vehicles is picking up steam. In fact, an energy analyst — Bloomberg New Energy Finance — is predicting that EV sales will be nearly 35 percent of the market by 2035.

Making EV readiness a part of the building code will enable the Commonwealth to efficiently build the charging infrastructure it needs for the future. Even if the building owner or operator does not plan to install charging equipment immediately, making the building EV ready during construction will result in safer buildings and massive savings. Ensuring the Commonwealth’s communities are future-ready will enable us to attract the kinds of companies and jobs that will propel economic growth around the state.

These chargers have safety measures including lock-out systems to prevent current from flowing when the charger is not connected or when the battery is fully charged. Additionally, the charger can detect hardware faults and cut off power to prevent battery damage, electrical shocks, or even fires.

In Massachusetts, the average cost of retrofitting a commercial parking space with an EV charger is about $6,000, but if a building is EV ready that cost would drop to an estimated average of $1,800-$3,000, making the cost much more affordable and encouraging building owners to make parking spaces EV ready.

This is particularly important in apartment buildings and other multi-unit dwellings where the cost of installing charging after the fact may mean that residents will have to wait a very long time for building owners to install them. Changing these building codes will open the door to thousands of new EV Charging spaces. Massachusetts has already made important commitments to an electrified transportation future. The Bay State should continue these commitments by requiring EV readiness for all new buildings.

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