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Madison to look at encouraging electric vehicle charging stations

Madison to look at encouraging electric vehicle charging stations

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Green Cab 3

A fleet of all-electric cabs owned by Green Cab, a company that has deployed the Teslas in Madison. These electric vehicles are projected to become more common in coming years, and a Madison City Council member wants to start preparing now. 

The city of Madison could pave the way for many more electric vehicle charging facilities — like gas stations for cars powered by fossil fuels — to be constructed throughout the city.

At a Plan Commission meeting Monday, a measure was introduced to make it easier to develop infrastructure for charging stations.

Under current city zoning laws, electric charging facilities are allowed, but owners must get an extra permit to operate them because vehicle charging isn’t a permitted use defined in city ordinances.

Ald. Syed Abbas, 12th District, the author of the proposed ordinance, said the new law would streamline the process for building an electric charging facility by preventing developers from having to jump through extra hoops.

The ordinance would also allow the facilities in many more areas of the city than gas stations, and require that 50% of spaces in new commercial and residential parking facilities be electric-vehicle capable or ready.

Abbas said when he asks people their primary reasons for not buying an electric vehicle, many mention the lack of charging stations. He said his ordinance could encourage more people to buy electric cars, decreasing the city’s carbon dioxide emissions.

“I’m really excited,” Abbas said. “We don’t have anything like this in the whole state of Wisconsin.”

He hopes other cities throughout the state will write similar ordinances.

Plan Commission members had questions about the proposal, and at this point none were for or against it.

Ald. Patrick Heck, 2nd District, asked Abbas whether he had any estimates for how much more a parking structure would cost if electric charging stations were required. Abbas said he didn’t have the data.

Heck said the parking requirements could face pushback from developers.

Zoning administrator Matt Tucker said even if it’s expensive, it could save money in the long run.

“If you build it now ... it’s far less expensive than it would be to put it in at a later date,” Tucker said. “The idea is it’s an investment in the future.”

Abbas said it’s necessary to start planning for the infrastructure now because more electric cars will be coming. By 2038, electric car sales are projected to surpass those of gas and diesel vehicles, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Since electric vehicles take longer to charge than a normal car takes to fill up with gas, Abbas thinks more charging stations will be needed than gas stations.

Abbas said he is gathering feedback from stakeholders to see if the ordinance needs modifications.

Heck said he liked the idea but doesn’t want it to be the only thing the city looks at in terms of reducing its carbon footprint.

“While this sounds promising — and obviously you admit there’s work to do — I hope we continue to focus efforts on having incentives for not driving cars at all,” Heck said.

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Emily Hamer is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She joined the paper in April 2019 and was formerly an investigative reporting intern at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

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