Friday, June 14, 2024

Model State Building Code for Equitable Electric Vehicle Charging in Multi-Family Housing


Historically, California residents in multi-family housing (MFH) units have not had the same access to at-home charging as single-family homeowners. Ensuring equal access to convenient and  affordable at-home charging is essential for all owners of electric vehicles (EVs). Therefore, the EV Charging for All Coalition (EVCAC) has constructed a model code with the following guidelines: 1. Ensure that 100% of newly constructed MFH units with parking have access to at least one EV Ready charging space with the EV circuit wired to the unit’s electrical panel or meter; 2. Ensure the MFH resident has the same options for low-cost, utility time-of-use (TOU) rates as residents of single-family homes (SFH); and 3. Ensure the resident does not have to depend on the variable and higher pricing of public chargers or potential extra fees by the electric vehicle service provider (EVSP) or MFH owner.

The Need For At-Home Charging

By 2035, California has mandated that 100% of all new cars and light trucks sold in the state will be zero emission vehicles. Widespread adoption of EVs will necessitate that all communities have equal  access to charging, which especially means at-home charging. As public charger access is less available in areas with below-median incomes and predominantly Black and Hispanic populations, this underscores the need to ensure that lower income residents have reliable and convenient access to home charging [1]. Residents of MFH usually lack at-home charging and instead must rely on public charging [2], which is often unreliable, inconvenient, and much more expensive than charging on a home-based circuit.

The Cost of Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment

Installing electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) in MFHs can be expensive. Level 2 EVSE installation costs can range between $1,800 and $17,800. In contrast, single-family EVSE installations average $1,500 [3]. It is imperative that EVSE is installed during construction of new MFH units. A cost analysis  prepared by Energy Solutions for Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy compared 2 multi-unit dwelling scenarios and found that the cost of retrofitting EVSE could be 4 times greater than when installed  during new construction. The requirement for an EV Ready space wired directly to the electrical panel or meter, instead of an EV Capable one, is vital because an EV Ready space does require an EVSP with networked EVSE which can control pricing and payment, hours of operation, and user access. Instead, by plugging directly into the outlet, the resident will access their unit’s meter and can benefit from TOU utility rates [4].

Benefits of Low-Power Versus High-Power Charging

With reliable, at-home access to charging being paramount to EV adoption, low-power level 2 (LPL2) charging can be provided for all residents in a MFH at the same cost as a limited number of shared, higher-power level 2 charging stations. The EVCAC emphasizes that it is more equitable to provide LPL2 for every resident without having to share circuits. By reducing the minimum power requirement to LPL2 with a circuit size accommodating 3.3 kW (instead of 6.2 kW for level 2), this guarantees charging access to 100% of those units that have access to parking.

Sven Thesen & Associates compared two MFH charging codes. They are the August 12, 2021 proposal by  California’s Housing Community Development (HCD) and the LPL2 approach first presented to HCD and other agencies in February, 2021 by the EVCAC. For a 60-unit market rate MFH scenario, the analysis found “that the LPL2 proposal results in greater economic benefits both for residents of MFH and for California as a whole at comparable cost. It also yields greater emissions reductions at significantly lower cost [5].”

A Model Code for Newly Built Multi-Family Housing 

In order to truly have an equitable code, these guiding principles are key:

  • Maximize access to reliable, convenient, predictable, safe, and affordable EV Ready charging at home for residents; and
  • Minimize cost and complexity for residents, builders, owners, and managers.

In order to provide equitable access to charging the EVCAC recommends that code writers focus on providing 100% of MFH units with access to charging, rather than on having a percentage of parking spaces that are electrified. To reduce complexity and cost for builders, the EVCAC recommends removing requirements for the installation of EV charging stations. The money saved by not requiring charging stations for MFH provides builders with sufficient funds to provide an EV Ready LPL2 circuit terminating in an EV receptacle for every apartment and condominium unit.


As California leads the country towards the widespread adoption of EVs, we must ensure that all EV owners have equitable access to at-home charging. Historically, ownership of EVs in lower-income MFH has been low due to the lack of access to charging at these units. Having to rely on public chargers with variable rates instead of utilizing less-expensive TOU rates at home is an unfair burden for these residents. Now is the time to reverse the tide. The EVCAC endorses a code that maximizes access to reliable and affordable EV Ready charging for MFH residents and minimizes the cost and complexity of installing EV charging equipment. In addition, the EVCAC recommends reducing the minimum power level at these units to LPL2 which will reduce the cost of supplying power to the building. It will also lower the overall costs to builders and help ensure that 100% of residents of newly constructed MFH with access to parking will be provided with one EV Ready space. This will help level the playing field for all EV owners and help usher in the new wave of universal EV ownership.


  1. Chih-Wei Hsu, Kevin Fingerman, Public electric vehicle charger access disparities across race and income in California, Transport Policy, Volume 100, 2021, Pages 59-67.

  1. Edelstein, Stephen. “Communities of Color Are Burdened by Air Pollution But Lag in EV Adoption.” Green Cars Report, September 13, 2022.

  1. California Energy Commission, Assessing the Multi-Unit Dwelling Barrier to Plug-in Electric Vehicle Adoption in the South Bay, January 2022.

  1. Tim Minezaki, Cassidee Kido, Ed Pike, Energy Solutions, Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Cost Analysis Report for Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE) & Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE), November 5, 2019. Cost-Analysis-Report-2019.11.05.pdf
  2. Sven Thesen & Associates, A Comparison of Two Multi-Family Dwelling EV Charging Codes. Personal communication, 2021.