Southern California environment news and trends

DWP plugging LA in to electric car revolution

Just in time for the Auto Show, LADWP wants you to know they're going to make it easier to plug-in your car at your house in LA. This morning in the Convention Center, mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LADWP interim general manager Austin Beutner will announce a program to help residential customers within the City of Los Angeles install electric vehicle at-home chargers - from permit to plug-in - within 7 days.

Is it that hard in the first place? Well: as these cars' popularity has been on the upswing, it hasn't always been the case that existing systems are ready for them. For example, you need a municipal permit and an inspection from your local utility to get an at-home car-charging station for your plug-in-vehicle - say, your Nissan LEAF. Local government bears that burden - and given the financial apocalypse, it's no wonder in some places reported delays for charging stations can be 30-45 days in some places. Granted, utilities seem to have a fair point:

Utilities are worried that if several EV chargers are installed in the same neighborhood and used at the same time, it could result in overloads on transformers, the pole-mounted device that transfers electricity from one circuit to another. 

Still, permitting times can vary, and the hurdles aren't insignificant. A Friends of the Earth study of northern California authorities found a range of permitting times and fees to getting a car plugged in at home.

DWP is announcing it's working with the Department of Building & Safety to streamline the installation process for plug-in chargers. They will offer pre-inspections to identify problems early, permits obtainable on-line, inspections within 24 hours of request, and expediting for a new meter after the installtion's complete. 7 days is the goal, top to bottom.

Beyond that, the city's sending other signals that it supports plugging in: systemic modifications including "electrical infrastructure upgrades to support EV charging...discounted electricity rate options for EV owners...the new generation of chargers at the LA Convention Center and Los Angeles International Airport...preparing to expand its EV program to meet customer needs in the coming weeks."

Last year, the LA Times reported Pike Research results to a survey finding that about half of potential new car consumers are interested in plug in cars. Anyone have experience with the permitting process for a home charger in LA? You think this announcement means it's going to get easier?

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