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Alderman wants more spots for electric vehicles to power up

Ald. Brendan Reilly’s (42nd) ordinance would require new buildings with parking to be wired for charging stations.

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Charging stations in Rosemead, Calif., in 2018.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

A downtown alderman wants to put in a plug for more usage of electric vehicles. He wants to require new parking garages and most new multi-unit residential buildings to be wired to support charging stations.

Ald. Brendan Reilly, whose 42nd Ward includes most of downtown, has sponsored an ordinance that would apply to new construction projects submitted to the city after June 30, 2020. It would require developers of residential buildings of at least five units that provide parking to include wiring for the charging stations for 20 percent of the spaces.

It further requires that for any new development with at least 30 parking spaces not set aside for residents — such as in a public garage — the same 20 percent rule would apply.

Reilly submitted the ordinance to the City Council on Wednesday and it was assigned to the Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards Committee. He did not return calls Thursday.

The ordinance requires only that the buildings have “electric vehicle supply equipment infrastructure,” and it does not appear to force installation of the charging stations themselves.

City Hall has encouraged property owners to provide outlets for electric vehicles, but hasn’t made it a requirement. A brochure prepared under the Rahm Emanuel administration laid out the steps developers or condo associations should follow to get charging stations and provided broad cost estimates of from $1,500 to $21,000 per station, depending on power capacity.

The proposal appears to be similar to a law in Atlanta, where officials have required that 20 percent of spaces in commercial and multi-family parking structures be ready for charging stations, according to a 2018 report by the Sierra Club and Plug In America. Seattle, California and Washington state also have requirements for electric-vehicle readiness, the report said.

“This has been more popular in California and the Pacific Northwest, so I commend Alderman Reilly for trying this here,” said Rob Kelter, senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.

Requiring the actual installation of the stations could be an unfair burden on property owners without a utility rebate, which ComEd currently does not offer, Kelter said. He said expanding the stations has the added benefit of boosting power demand from wind energy or other renewable sources.

“This is the kind of thing we have to do to move in the right direction,” Kelter said.

In the preamble to the ordinance, Reilly said the global electric vehicle stock surpassed two million cars in 2016 and will top three million cars by 2021. He also said accommodating the new technology “is critical to the city’s continued economic growth and development.”