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California's State Assembly is Pushing a Bill to Speed Up the Construction of New EV Charging Sites

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【Summary】California assembly members Kevin McCarty and David Chiu introduced legislation on Tuesday designed to speed up the approval process of companies seeking to build new EV charging stations in the state. California has the highest number of EV drivers in the U.S.

FutureCar Staff    Feb 12, 2020 4:30 PM PT
California's State Assembly is Pushing a Bill to Speed Up the Construction of New EV Charging Sites
A recently opened, DC Fast EV charging site operated by Electrify America at a shopping center near San Francisco (Photo: Electrify America)

Finding a suitable place to charge top concern for drivers of electric vehicles. Throughout the U.S. operators of EV charging infrastructure has been steadily building new EV charging stations to encourage drivers to switch to electric vehicles.

However in California, a state with the highest percentage of electric vehicles on the road, the permit process to install them is often too lengthy. Companies wishing to install EV chargers frequently endure local government bureaucracy, a slow permit process and frequent site redesigns to secure the necessary permits for construction, which adds to overall construction costs.

A new bill being proposed in the California State Legislature may help to speed up the process by amending a current bill.

California assembly members Kevin McCarty and David Chiu introduced the bill on Tuesday designed to speed up the approval process of companies seeking to build new EV charging stations in the state. California has the highest EV sales in the U.S.

The Bill titled  "Planning and zoning: electric vehicle charging stations: permit application: approval" is intended to streamline the time its takes to secure permits to build EV charging sites. If passed, it would add Section 65850.75 to the Government Code, relating specifically to zoning. The three assembly members want it to take effect immediately, given the urgency of the matter to stakeholders, as California moves forward on its zero-emissions initivaties.

Although California already has a law that requires every city, county, and city and county to create an expedited, streamlined permitting process for electric vehicle charging stations, the governor's office found that many cities and counties are not following it. 

California's electric vehicle charging station permit streamlining law (AB 1236 Statutes of 2015, Chapter 598) was enacted to address the frustration of electric vehicle charging station providers wanting to speed up the permitting process to install new infrastructure.

To help address these frustrations, AB 1236 establishes a permitting process and communication requirement for cities and counties. 

Currently, each country or city is supposed to adopt a checklist in which any applicant that satisfies the requirements shall be deemed "complete" and therefore eligible for expedited review, which doesn't always happen.

The new bill, if passed, would require that any application to install an EV charging station to be deemed complete if within 5 business days after it was submitted if no problems are found with the application.

In addition, an application to install an EV charging station will be deemed approved within 15 business days after submission, if the city of country has not issued a building permit or similar non discretionary permit. Or, if the building official has not made findings that the proposed EV charger installation could have an adverse impact.

Electrify America, a Virginia-based company investing $2 billion over the next decade to build a coast-to-coast EV charging network welcomed the new bill.

"EV charging station permitting problems are a barrier to California's climate goals. Assembly members McCarty and Chiu charging station permitting law is the strongest in the nation, but the Governor's office has found that more than 80 percent of cities and counties are not following it." the company said in a statement.

Electrify America is installing EV chargers in more than 30 states and says that building them in California takes much longer than anywhere else due to lack of enforcement of the current rules.

In a statement, Electrify America wrote, "Despite strong support from the Governor's office and state agency leaders,  Electrify America's stations in California take 70 percent longer to permit, must be redesigned 30 percent  more frequently, and cost at least 20 percent more to build, when compared to the rest of the nation. We thank Assembly members McCarty and Chiu for introducing this legislation, which we believe is vital for California to transition to a zero emission economy."

Electrify America's planned network in California is to install more than 600 DC fast chargers delivering up to 350 kW's at approximately 160 EV charging station sites. By December 2021, The company plans to install or have under development approximately 800 total charging stations with about 3,500 total chargers in total throughout the U.S.

On Jan 26, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order which provides for the target of 5,000,000 zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) in California by 2030, and 250,000 ZEV charging stations, including 10,000 direct current fast charge stations by 2025.

The new bill would put rules in place to help make sure it gets done.

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