Frequently Asked Questions 


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Clean and low electricity rates help spur Electric Vehicle (EV) adoption in Palo Alto. Learn more through the City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) frequently asked questions. 

1. What is an electric vehicle (EV)?

An EV uses an electric motor powered by electricity from batteries. EVs do not have an internal combustion engine and do not use gasoline or diesel fuel. EVs do not emit tail pipe pollution and do not need oil changes. An EV is emissions free and the energy used to fuel it in Palo Alto is clean as CPAU is carbon neutral. 

2. What are the benefits of driving an EV?

Lower cost: The US Department of Energy estimates that driving an EV costs about half as much as driving a gas vehicle. Federal and state incentives also help lower the price of EVs. With less parts, EVs need less maintenance leading to less cost. No need for oil changes, or spark plug replacements. 
Convenience: EV owners claim that driving an EV is more convenient since they don’t have to fuel up at gas stations, nor bring the vehicle in for oil changes and other maintenance. Being able to charge your car at home, at work, or while running errands saves time and money at the pump. 
Fun: EVs are fun to drive as they are fast and smooth on acceleration. As soon as your foot is removed from the accelerator, re-generative breaking kicks in, slowing the car immediately. Auto-pilot and auto-drive features are altering the driving experience. 
Environmentally-friendly: Traditional vehicles rely on petroleum-based fossil fuels, releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.  These gases are responsible for causing climate change, pollute our ecosystems and harm human health. In Palo Alto, electricity is carbon neutral, so the energy to fuel an EV is emissions free. With no tailpipe emissions EVs are a better choice to keep greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful contaminants out of our environment. 


You may find these testimonials from EV drivers helpful.

3. Are there any incentives available for purchasing or leasing an EV?

Local agencies, the State of California and the Federal Government currently offer incentives for leasing or purchasing an EV. Some programs apply to all residents. Others are designed for low to moderate income households. Some programs are focused on getting older fossil fuel vehicles off the road, while others focus on increasing the use of public transportation. CPAU also participates in limited time EV discount programs. Incentives are summarized here. However, please check the websites of each organization for the most up to date information. Rebates are also available for multi-family and non-profit properties interested in installing EV charging infrastructure. 

4. What EV education and resources does the City of Palo Alto provide?

CPAU hosts several EV educational events throughout the year, including workshops and test drives. Find a full listing of these events at CPAU also offers a Technical Assistance Program. This free service guides multifamily and non-profit property owners through each step of installing EV chargers.

5. What are the different types of EVs and how do I know what is right for me?

There are over 40 different models of EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) on the market today with varying battery ranges. Customers can use the online EV calculator to understand the costs of switching to an EV. Plug in America also offers an online EV Shopping Assistant to help you find the right EV to meet your needs. 

6. How do I charge my EV and what are the different types of EV chargers?

There are different types of EV chargers and knowing which one to use or understanding how fast it will charge your battery can be confusing. The length of time it takes to charge an EV depends on the type of car and how much charge is left on your battery is when you plug in to begin charging. A full charge can range from 30 minutes to 12 hours, depending upon these factors. The length of charge will also depend on the size of the battery pack and the speed of the charging equipment. EV chargers are commonly referred to as Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 (L1, L2, L3). 
Level 1 – This is often a standard household power outlet using a 120-volt connection. An EV plugged into this type of power will typically require overnight charging, or up to 20 hours for a full charge. 
Level 2 - It will take about 4 hours to fully charge a typical EV. Most public chargers and home chargers are L2.
Level 3 - Tesla Superchargers & DC Fast Chargers are the examples of L3 charging equipment. These charging stations are up to 16 times as fast as typical public charging stations. It can take 20 to 75 minutes to fully charge. 

7. What is the mileage range for an EV and can that get me where I need to go?

 A 100-mile range vehicle is more than enough for daily commutes and errands. Teslas, Bolts and other new EV models have larger battery capacities and offer longer ranges up to 300+ miles. 

8. Will my EV run out of battery before I reach my destination? 

When driving an EV, the fear of running out of charge before reaching a destination can be unnerving. The uncertainty of being able to complete a trip before needing to charge has been an impediment for EV adoption. This is often referred to as “range anxiety.” Accessibility and convenience of charging equipment is essential. Luckily, there are many places to charge an EV.  There are also apps and websites to help you locate chargers. 70% of current EV drivers charge their vehicles at home, but if you are unable to charge at home, do not let that deter you. In California, there are ever-increasing numbers of publicly accessible EV chargers and workplace chargers. 

9.   Are there incentives for charging at home?

Single family homes – For Palo Alto EV drivers are installing Level 2 chargers at their home. Have an electrician ensure that your home is wired to provide enough electricity for your EV, along with other electrical home appliances. Most Level 2 EV chargers need 30 to 50 amps of current. If your home has a 100 amp electrical panel, you may need to upgrade to a 200 amp panel. In some cases, the transformer supplying electricity to your home may need to be upgraded to provide additional electrical capacity. If this is the case, you may be eligible for a Utility Service Capacity Fee Rebate of up to $10,000. 
Multifamily properties – 42% of Palo Alto residents live at multi-unit properties. To encourage EV adoption, CPAU offers a rebate of up to $80,000 for these properties to install EV chargers. Funds can be used to install EV chargers in shared parking spaces, upgrade electrical services, and/or make a multi-unit parking garage EV ready for multiple EV chargers in the future. Read Eligibility Requirements.

10. Are there incentives for employers who want to install EV charging equipment for employees?

Schools, non-profits, multifamily & mixed-use properties are eligible to receive CPAU rebates of up to $80,000 for EV charger installation. Read more about CPAU's EV Charger Rebate Program
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) offers grant funding for purchasing and installing publicly-available EV charging stations. Visit the Air District's Charge! Program site for more information. 

11. How easy is it to charge my EV around town?

The City hopes to make it as easy as possible for people to drive an EV in Palo Alto. Aside from offering rebates and technical assistance to multifamily and non-profit properties, CPAU is actively pursuing grant opportunities for accelerating the building of charging infrastructure at private commercial sites. The City is also proactively installing EV charging stations at public facilities. There are currently seven L1 ports and 53 L2 ports located in public parking garages and libraries throughout the City, with plans for exponential growth. Additionally, neighboring Cities are also actively installing EV charging infrastructure. 

12. Does it cost me to charge my EV at public locations in Palo Alto?
Public chargers in Palo Alto cost 23 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) with an “overstay” fee for drivers that leave their vehicles parked at a City charging stations after their car is fully charged.. In 3 hours, and $5 a Nissan Leaf would get about 70 miles of charge and a Tesla Model 3 would get about 100 miles of charge.   

13. How can I find EV charging locations in Palo Alto?
The City’s EV  landing page provides a map of charging stations. Additionally, numerous apps are available to help you look up locations of EV chargers: 


14.    Are EV rates or Time-of-Use (TOU) rates available to me?

Currently an EV or TOU rate plan is not available. All residential customers pay for their electricity at the E-1 rate. Any new CPAU rate options, programs, or adjustments are publicized through the Residential Rates page. Please note that CPAU's average electricity rate is still much lower than the average rates in neighboring communities with a TOU rate plan. 

15.   As a CPAU customer, what is the best time of day to charge my EV?
Although CPAU currently does not offer a city-wide TOU rate, we highly recommend EV charging during post peak night hours to help lower the load and alleviate stress on the distribution grid. CPAU also recommends EV charging during the day in the Spring to consume excess solar PV generation. 

CPAU recommends EV charging during the following time periods:

 -     Nighttime: 11 pm to 6 am (All Seasons)
 -     Daytime: 9 am to 3 pm (Spring only)

16. Are the number of EVs on the market increasing?

Yes. In fact, some industry groups estimate that within a few years, EVs will account for at least 25% of all new vehicle sales. With this market transformation, we will see more and more charging infrastructure installed throughout California and the United States. 

17. How does EV adoption relate to the City of Palo Alto’s Sustainability Climate Action Plan (S/CAP)?

In April 2016, Palo Alto City Council unanimously adopted a goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2030. This ambitious goal is 20 years ahead of the State of California’s 80 percent by 2050 target. The largest portion of Palo Alto’s GHG emissions are from road transportation. Powering transportation with EVs as opposed to traditional fossil fuel powered vehicles can significantly reduce GHG. Palo Alto is actively encouraging residents and non-resident commuters to adopt EVs to help reduce its carbon footprint. The City strives to make “going EV” more convenient and economical than using fossil fueled vehicles. 


18. Why is the City of Palo Alto concerned about my EV Charger installation?
Though an individual EV Charger may have a negligible impact on the utility electric system, the combined effect of several chargers in the same area could result in overloads on utility secondary wires and transformers. It is crucial that the City of Palo Alto Utilities is notified of any charging station installations to ensure that utility electrical system components are adequately sized to maintain high levels of service reliability. 

20. Where can I ask EV or EV Charger related questions?
Please contact the following City of Palo Alto offices:

- General EV or EV Charger Questions: Utilities Program Services at (650) 329-2241
- Permit Related Questions: Development Services at (650) 329-2496
- Utility Service Upgrade Questions:  Utilities Electrical Engineering at (650) 566-4500

21. What is a PHEV? BEV? ZEV?
There are many different acronyms associated with EVs, which can lead to confusion. Here are some frequently used acronyms: 
a. AEV/BEV – All Electric Vehicle or Battery Electric Vehicle (Uses electricity stored in on-board battery packs as their only fuel source)
b. ZEV - Zero Emission Vehicles (Are AEV or BEV and also includes electric bicycles, electric scooters, and fuel cell electric vehicles) 
c. FCEV – Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (Hydrogen vehicles use an electric motor that converts hydrogen into electricity. These vehicles offer fast refueling times and long driving ranges—but also require hydrogen refueling stations) 
d. PEV/PHEV – Plug-In Electric Vehicle or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (Uses both battery and gasoline as their fuel sources)
e. HEV – Hybrid Electric Vehicle (Uses a combination of a conventional engine with some form of electric propulsion. However, this category of vehicles is not considered an EV as they cannot be plugged in)
f. ICE – Internal Combustion Engine (Uses fossil fuel or gasoline as their power source)
g. EVSE - Electric Vehicle Service Equipment ( most commonly referred to as “chargers.” )


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