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Proposed Madison ordinance would require electric vehicle charging stations

Proposed Madison ordinance would require electric vehicle charging stations

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Charging stations

Jane McCurry, director of the electric vehicle program for Renew Wisconsin, plugs in her car at her Near East Side Madison apartment complex. A proposal before the Madison City Council would require certain commercial and residential buildings to include at least some parking spaces with EV charging stations starting in 2021. 


The Madison City Council is considering an ordinance to increase the number of electric vehicle charging stations.

A proposal being introduced Tuesday would require certain commercial and residential buildings to include at least some parking spaces with EV charging stations starting in 2021.

By 2041, at least half of all parking stalls would need to have electrical conduits and space for chargers, and up to 10% would have to have chargers installed.

The ordinance would apply to residential parking lots with at least six spaces and to schools, hotels, hospitals, office buildings and public and private lots where people park for more than six hours at a time.

It would also allow for stand-alone commercial charging stations in most nonresidential zoning districts.

Growing market

Ald. Syed Abbas, 12th District, said the ordinance is a response to the rapidly growing market for electric vehicles, which in 2018 accounted for 1.9% of new vehicles sold in Madison, the highest in the Midwest, according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Syed Abbas


Bloomberg NEF predicts electric vehicle sales will continue to climb as battery costs fall and charging stations become more common, and says electric vehicles will account for more than half of passenger vehicle sales within the next two decades.

“We were looking at how we can make it more convenient … and help promote electrification and have less charging anxiety,” Abbas said. “There’s a big need to develop an infrastructure.”

In recent years cities including Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle have passed similar ordinances, though none as aggressive as the one Abbas has proposed.

Feedback sought

Last week the Wisconsin Public Service Commission asked for feedback on a proposal to require the state’s largest utilities to develop electric vehicle programs after a PSC investigation found lack of charging infrastructure and “range anxiety” are the largest barriers to wider adoption of electric vehicles.

Jane McCurry, director of Renew Wisconsin’s electric vehicle program, said the proposed ordinance is “exciting and also essential to provide least-cost public EV charging.”

While it’s relatively easy for EV owners to install chargers in single-family homes, apartment and condo dwellers don’t have the same options.

Jane McCurry


“It can be up to 75% less expensive to install the conduit and cabling required for EV charging while the building is being built and before the concrete is poured,” McCurry said. “Even if the building or lot owner isn’t interested in installing the actual charging stations right now, their asset will be protected for any future charging needs that might come up.”

Not so fast?

Developers are somewhat less enthusiastic.

“We’re very supportive of the process,” said Bill Connors, executive director of Smart Growth Greater Madison, which represents builders and others in the business of real estate development.

Kevin Little, vice president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, said that while the business group supports the overall goals it would prefer to see an incentive-based approach that would reward builders for including EV infrastructure.

Little points out that even as electric vehicles account for a greater share of new sales there will continue to be far more internal-combustion vehicles on the road.

“It essentially is asking that the private sector get ahead of the curve,” Little said. “If we’re structuring a policy around a mandated approach that has significant cost ... at a time when we need to be focused on accelerated recovery, that’s concerning.”

Bill Connors


Connors said Abbas listened to business concerns and softened the ordinance requirements, though his organization’s members think the market should be allowed to respond to consumer demands without mandates and that the ordinance will result in higher rents and parking fees.

“There is an additional cost,” Connors said. “Ultimately, it’s always the tenants that end up paying.”


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