GeneralIndustry News

Palo Alto to require electric car charger pre-wiring in new homes

Palo Alto to require electric car charger pre-wiring in new homes

The city of Palo Alto, in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, is already on the cutting edge of modern technology, as the home of Tesla Motors, Hewlett-Packard and Stanford University. It also has large facilities run by Facebook, Apple, Google and PayPal. Outside of the private sector, though, there’s not a lot to distinguish Palo Alta from other very wealthy ZIP codes.

A move is in the works to change that, though. According to both the San Jose Mercury News and Green Car Reports, all nine members of the Palo Alto City Council voted to change the city’s building code, requiring new homes to feature pre-wiring for 240-volt, level two, in-home chargers. It tacks on about $200 to the overall cost of a new home, which as Green Car Reports notes, is a mere fraction of what retrofitting would cost.

The city council also voted to streamline the process of obtaining a permit to install a fast charger. “It is important that we create the infrastructure necessary to allow [electric cars to catch on]. In Palo Alto, of all places, we should absolutely do that,” Council Member Marc Berman told the San Jose Mercury News.



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Toyota’s Role in the History of the Electric Car

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The history of the electric car actually begins in the mid-1800s. In the 1830s, a variety of different inventors developed electric motors and model electric cars.

Before the widespread availability of gasoline, the electric car reigned in Europe and America. Despite holding speed records (65 mph in 1899), the top speed of most early EVs was about 20 mph. In the early 1900s, it was more popular than the gasoline powered car because it did not require gear changes, lacked the smell and noise of gasoline cars, and were easier to use.

In 1917, Woods Motor Vehicle Company of Chicago released the first hybrid car, but because it was too slow, too difficult to service, and ultimately not worth its price tag, it failed and was discontinued.

The 1920’s, however, brought about substantial changes in the automobile industry that would ultimately wipe the EV out of the market. Better road infrastructure called for cars with better range, the discovery of petroleum in Texas, Oklahoma and California made gasoline more affordable, and gasoline cars surpassed the EV’s early speed records. Additionally, the invention of the muffler made gasoline cars quieter, and Henry Ford’s mass production assembly lines made gasoline cars more affordable for the mass public. By the 1930’s, the American electric vehicle had disappeared, and would not make a substantial return for several decades.

Toyota’s History with Electric Vehicles

In the 70’s and 80’s, the energy crisis sparked a renewed interest in the EV, culminating in the early 90’s, when the California Air Resources Board pushed for fuel-efficient, lower-emissions vehicles.

Many automakers responded to this push and developed electric vehicles, among them Toyota, with the RAV4 EV. The RAV4 EV ran from 1997 to 2003, had a top speed of 78 mph and a range of 80 to 120 miles.

However, poor marketing on the part of all car manufacturers made EV vehicles unsuccessful and led to the impression that no one was interested in buying an electric car. Subsequently, the cars were taken off the market. Toyota offered to sell its last 328 RAV4 EVs in response to owner protests of the repossession of their cars.

In the 90’s, interest in electric vehicles declined, and consumers became interested in SUVs instead. Meanwhile, Toyota released the Prius hybrid around the turn of the twenty-first century. After being out for several years, the Prius saw sales take off in the mid-2000s.

In the past few years, due to the global economic recession, more and more people are turning towards fuel-efficient vehicles to help save money. After over a century, the electric vehicle is finally making its comeback in America. Last year, Toyota and Tesla announced their plan to develop a second generation of the RAV4 EV for 2012.

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7 Automakers Agree to Standardization of Electric-Car Charging

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Seven automakers have agreed to standardize electric-car charging: Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen. These automakers will implement a universal system with one port that will work with all current charging methods. This agreement comes after the ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers Association) urged carmakers to pursue a universal charging standard last month.

The seven carmakers said, “standardization will reduce build complexity for manufacturers, accelerate the installation of common systems internationally and most importantly, improve the ownership for EV drivers.”

At the moment, car manufacturers each use their own type of charger, making it difficult for EV users to locate charging stations that match their model. Electric charging stations are already rare enough, without having to worry about what type of charger you use. According to a poll done last May by USA Today, 60% of Americans have no desire to purchase an all-electric car because they worry about the range of the charge, finding recharging stations within that range, and amount of time it takes to recharge.

The difficulty in locating refueling stations is an issue all alternative-fuel options face. Currently, the only compressed natural gas vehicle, the Honda Civic Natural Gas, is offered in a mere four states (although this will change October 18, when the Civic Natural Gas rolls out in 36 states across the country). No wonder there’s not enough fueling stations across the country. Without refueling stations, there’s little incentive to purchase these alternative-fuel vehicles.

While “going green” and buying hybrid or electric vehicles is certainly a trend, on the whole people are sticking with gasoline cars, despite desires to reduce dependence on oil and use more domestic fuel alternatives. Many alternatives to regular gasoline exist, from the aforementioned hybrid and electric options, to compressed natural gas, and even biodiesel. However, despite increased appeal in niche markets, none of them have seen mainstream popularity.

Carmakers hope standardization of electric vehicle charging stations will help boost sales for electric vehicles. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but other manufacturers will have to jump on board to make this movement towards standardization most effective. In the coming weeks, we will have to keep an eye out for what other car manufacturers will join the seven.

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