New homes in Georgia’s largest city already bear an extra cost to accommodate electric vehicles, and that requirement could be coming to the rest of the state in a matter of years.
In 2017, members of the Atlanta City Council passed an ordinance that requires that new single-family homes in the city come equipped with special types of conduits, wiring, and electrical capacity necessary to install Electric Vehicle (EV) Ready equipment in their respective garages. As early as next year, members of the governing body that create building codes may mandate a similar rule that will raise the costs of new homes statewide.
Atlanta’s New Regulations
In order to comply with the 2017 ordinance, people wishing to build a new home in Atlanta might have to upgrade their electric panel or construct an electrical outlet designed for the needs of an electric vehicle. According to the language of the ordinance, homebuilders must install enough electrical capacity for a 40- amp, 240-volt branch circuit to power EVs. In doing so, those homebuilders will also have to pass the additional costs of complying with these regulations onto their customers.
The ordinance also mandates that these homes come with garages, carports, driveways, or detached garages to install this EV Supply Equipment. Absent an attached or detached garage, homebuilders must provide an underground electrical conduit between the dwelling and the dwelling’s designated parking space.
At the time, then-Mayor Kasim Reed called the ordinance “an historic step.”
Home Builders Association of Georgia Vice President Austin Hackney thinks it’s historic too, but for different reasons. Hackney said these types of government mandates increase the cost of building a new home. He testified to this during a hearing at the Georgia General Assembly in February.
Citing 2019 numbers, Hackney said proponents of the ordinance estimated that the cost of compliance would add up to about $920 for new construction versus $3,550 to retrofit existing construction. But 2019 was before the supply chain issues that have plagued the construction industry since COVID-19. 2019 also pre-dated inflation. In 2022, those construction materials are more expensive now, Hackney said.
“These 2019 numbers are probably 20 percent higher today, conservatively,” Hackney said.
Taking that into account, the costs of compliance for new construction today would cost $1,104 and $4,260 to retrofit existing construction.
Atlanta is the only local jurisdiction in Georgia that Hackney knows of that enforces such a government mandate — but that doesn’t mean the concept couldn’t spread statewide. For now, at least, statewide construction codes do not include that mandate.
Hackney said the people who write the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) update it every three years and the next update is due in 2024. Like many states and municipal governments, Georgia adopts the latest IECC construction codes to guide the building process.
The 2021 edition of the code does not include a mandate for EV Ready equipment for single-family homes. But Hackney fully expects that members of the International Code Council (ICC) will debate the topic again either next year or the year after.
Ryan Colker, who is an executive director with the ICC, said the code development process is open and transparent. Members of the public, along with manufacturers and designers, may participate.
“As an organization we don’t control what ultimately is included,” Colker said.
“It is up to the folks who participate in the process.”
Colker said the ICC is currently developing its 2024 code. He said the new code might require that new homes come ready to charge EVs, but did not elaborate.
Could such a mandate increase the cost of a new home?
“We are early in the process and not sure what the ultimate outcome is going to be, but with the current approach it would add some cost, not to the extent of an EV-charging equipment in each [and every] home, which would certainly be an additional expense. This is a matter of additional panel space and running a pipe to help future installations which could be a significant cost,” Colker said.
“But that cost would only be if the homeowner decides to install an EV charger. It sets the capability for them to do that in a less expensive way. One of the other things to consider is, as Electric Vehicles become increasingly common, having the conduit already in place. Making the installation of the EV equipment cheaper may be a selling point for folks who are looking for new houses.”
To determine whether to go forward with one or more EV-related codes, Colker said ICC members are analyzing a report that the U.S. Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Lab published last year.
That report says that “the costs associated with installing EV charging infrastructure during new construction are substantially lower than during a retrofit.”
“Installing infrastructure during new construction avoids the retrofit costs of breaking and repairing walls, installing longer raceways, and using more expensive methods of upgrading service panels,” according to the report.
Plug In America is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit advocacy group that promotes EV use and infrastructure.. Executive Director Joel Levin said that the government mandating EV chargers in new homes “could be useful, but having them in every new home might be overkill.”
“I would say that if there is a national target to have 50 percent of new cars be electric by 2030, and if you look at where the world is going in many countries around the world and in many states, they are now aiming to have 100 percent new cars be electric by 2035. For new homes that are going to last 50 years, it is clear the auto industry is shifting to electric,” Levin said.
“I would see this having a charger in a home as a feature that people would value and would be needed eventually anyway, so it is not a crazy thing to add it. The same as WIFI or USB ports. It is not a huge cost when you are building it.”
Hackney, however, thinks differently.
“The people at ICC, when they were debating the 2021 requirement, gave us some numbers, and they said it would save money for a homeowner to install this in a new home versus retrofitting an existing home for the same equipment. That makes sense, but not every new homeowner plans on charging an Electric Vehicle in their garage. That is where we would argue with that reasoning.”
Electrification of Transportation
Members of the Georgia General Assembly this year created a Joint Study Committee on the Electrification of Transportation. Co-Chair and State Sen. Steve Gooch (R- Dahlonega) said committee members will try to ascertain how best to tax drivers of EVs to fund roads and bridges. Committee members are not expected to discuss any possible mandates that new homes in Georgia come EV Ready.
Regardless, Hackney said he plans to inform committee members about the cost of EV Ready garages and the possible ICC mandates in 2024.
Gooch said he does not support the government mandating EV-charging charging stations at anyone’s home and added “it’s a personal choice that a consumer should make on their own.”
“If it’s a safety issue with life and safety codes then that is a little different. That’s because you are protecting the public when you sell a home. A home must meet certain building codes,” Gooch said.
“I am not sure a charging station should be mandated by the government at any level. That is not to say that 20 years from now the market trends will obviously be different. But consumer behavior will drive the market.”
Repeated attempts to contact all 16 members of the Atlanta City Council about that city’s EV-charging mandate were unsuccessful.