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Seattle City Light DEBRA SMITH, General Manager and CEO
Electric Vehicles
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Electric Vehicles

There are roughly 4,000 EVs (all-electric and plug-in hybrids) on the road in the City Light service territory. We are committed to helping current EV owners and customers who are considering an electric vehicle purchase. Because City Light generates 90 percent of our energy from hydroelectricity, you’ll be charging up with a green energy source.

We’ll help you to be plug-in ready by providing basic information on electric vehicles and charger installation as well as new charging initiatives from City Light. Supporting EV charging allows City Light to extend electric service to customers as part of the City of Seattle’s Drive Clean Initiative.

City Light is currently in the process of designing and implementing two proposed charging infrastructure pilot programs in Seattle: One focused on public DC fast chargers and one focused on residential charging.
  • Public DC Fast Charging
    • DC fast charging provides a rapid recharge of battery electric vehicles, generally in less than 30 minutes
    • City Light has committed to installing 20 public direct current (DC) fast charging stations on 15 sites, starting in 2017
    • Read an FAQ on public EV charging stations here.

  • Residential Charging Pilot
    • This program model will offer customers access in-home charging at a manageable monthly cost
Electric Vehicles 101
Getting Started
Choosing an Electrician
City Light Electric Vehicles

Electric Vehicles 101

There are three basic types of electric vehicles:

Hybrid Vehicles are powered by a gasoline engine and one or more electric motors. The battery is charged as the vehicle drives, so the vehicle is powered ultimately by gasoline.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles are powered by a gasoline engine and electric motor, but they have a larger battery pack than a hybrid vehicle which can be recharged from the grid.

Battery Electric Vehicles are powered by an electric motor and battery alone. Battery Electric Vehicles can travel farther on stored electricity than plug-in hybrids, but their total range is more limited than hybrid models.

Charging Equipment

Generally speaking,there are two levels of residential charging equipment (also known as Electric Vehicle Service Equipment, or EVSE) for residential applications. Charging times depend on the size of your car's battery. You'll want to consult with an electrician to make sure your electrical service is capable of supporting the additional load.

Level I - Standard 110volt outlet Depending on the battery size, an electric vehicle will recharge from "empty" in about 8-12 hours, using a dedicated 20 amp circuit.

Level II - 240volt outlet 240volts is the same voltage used by a dryer or hot water heater, although some models can deliver significantly more power - up to 19.2kw, which is as much as a forced air electric furnace. Depending on your battery size and the wattage, it can recharge your car in just a few hours.

Energy Consumption

Buying an electric vehicle means that you’ll no longer being paying for fuel at the pump and decreasing your use of fossil fuels.

Adding an electric vehicle charger at your home will increase your electricity consumption. For example, driving a Nissan Leaf for 10,000 miles is expected to use 2,500 kilowatt-hours of electricity. That adds up to about $175 for about a year's worth of driving at City Light's low rates. The average Seattle resident uses about 9,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year at home, so adding a car, increases consumption by nearly 30 percent. Again, that cost is offset because by your savings at the pump. And because City Light generates 90 percent of energy from hydroelectricity, you’ll be charging up with a green energy source.

Getting Started

For City of Seattle customers, and contractors working in the Seattle city limits, please consult the following tips from the Seattle Department of Planning & Development.

Tip 132 – Installation of Electric Vehicle (EV) Charger for Single Family and Multifamily Homes.

Tip 133 – Installation of Electric Vehicle (EV) Charger for Commercial Properties.

For Suburban Cities, and areas of Unincorporated King County in the City Light Service District, please contact your local jurisdiction for any specific installation guidelines.

Note: If you own, rent or manage multi-family housing, please see our City Light "Electric Vehicle Service Equipment for Multi-Family Housing" publication. It gives step-by-step guidance on this community project.

Choosing an Electrician

When deciding on an electrician, it's always best to get three or more estimates - you might be surprised at the variability in quotes. Make sure the contractors are licensed and bonded, and ask if they are familiar with Seattle City Light's policies and standards.

Once you have selected an electrician, he or she can determine whether your current electrical service is capable of handling the increased load, or if additional capacity is required. If your service does need to be upgraded, a City Light Electrical Service Representative will need to approve your proposed service location, and check to make sure that our transformer and the wires that serve your house can handle the increased load. If City Light crews need to come to your home to make connections or do meter work, installation charges may apply.

Call City Light prior to doing any work. We’ll work with you to make sure your home charger installation runs smoothly. Call our Customer Engineering Department at (206) 615-0600.


Before Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE) can be installed, your electrician is required to open an electrical permit with your local municipality. For Seattle residents, the Department of Planning and Development issues the permits, and is committed to responding to inspection requests within three days. Other municipalities have similar policies.

Once you have a permit, the EVSE can be installed. When the work is completed, your electrician will call for an electrical inspection, and if all goes smoothly, your new equipment will be approved for connection. If corrections are required, the electrical inspector will let your electrician know what needs to be done.

City Light Electric Vehicles

Seattle City Light doesn’t just seek to help customers learn about electric vehicles. We’re choosing them for our own fleet as well.

We have nine diesel-hybrid “bucket trucks” in our line service fleet. The trucks run like a regular hybrid during driving, but the real magic starts when workers pull up to a worksite and use the aerial lift, or “bucket.” When the engine is turned off, the hydraulic controls are driven by a device called the electronic power take off (EPTO). When the charge on the battery gets low, the engine starts up automatically, runs long enough to charge it up, and then shuts itself off again.

Without an engine running, the worksite is quiet, allowing crews to communicate better, which in turn improves safety - and our customers don't have to listen to the drone of an engine in the early morning or late evening. Plus, customers and workers both benefit from significantly less diesel emissions, compared to a standard truck.

From a fuel standpoint, we've seen significant savings of 60-70 percent over standard utility vehicles, both in mileage and in fuel used during idling. Less idling leads to lower maintenance costs.

For our engineering and customer service field staff, we’ve made a significant investment in the Toyota Prius, and most recently in the all-electric Nissan Leaf. City Light is purchasing twelve Leafs; they are uniquely suited for our geographically concentrated service area, and will show significant savings in operation and maintenance.

These marvels of clean technology demonstrate how City Light continues to find ways of blending our business with environmental stewardship.

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