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D.C. Moves To Boost EV Charging By 2,900%, Taking Aim At Commercial Buildings

A new bill proposed in D.C. would supercharge the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in commercial buildings as part of the District's efforts to build out green infrastructure.

The legislation would increase the number of chargers from about 250 today to 7,500 by 2027, dramatically ramping up capacity in part by mandating commercial developers assist in building out infrastructure.

Council Member Charles Allen introduced the “Comprehensive Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Access, Readiness, and Sustainability Amendment Act of 2023,” this morning after first circulating the proposal late last year.


Its previous iteration also received backing from Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and Allen said he would shepherd the bill through the legislative process as the new chair of the council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment.

“To support a big increase in EVs, charging infrastructure needs to become as common and reliable as we think about gas stations today. But unlike gas stations, we can deploy EV charging to better fit into our city, including in and around our homes and neighborhoods,” Allen said in a statement.

The bill would promote a variety of strategies to boost the number of public charging stations in D.C.

Those measures include a requirement to add "even more" EV charging infrastructure for all "new or substantially upgraded" commercial and multifamily buildings with parking lots.

The bill would also give renters the right to install their own charging stations at their place of residence "with reasonable requirements and safety restrictions by landlords."

All commercial construction that receives a building permit starting next year would need to ensure that at least 15% of parking spaces have EV charging installed and at least 25% must be ready for EV charging to be installed. For multifamily buildings, at least 20% of spaces must have chargers installed and at least 20% must be EV ready.

While the bill's support is unanimous within the D.C. Council, others are skeptical. Alex Rossello, director of policy communications for the Apartment & Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, said the bill "won't do anything of substance."

Despite registrations increasing 65-fold over the past decade, electric vehicles constitute about 2% of all vehicles in the region today, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' climate director told The Washington Post on Thursday.

Rossello said the bill has a "build it and they will use it" strategy that doesn't match current adoption trends or the District's efforts to reduce car commuters in general on D.C. streets. 

"Ideological wish casting doesn’t produce sound policy," Rossello said in an emailed statement. "Policymakers need to engage the public and businesses on the future of the District’s energy production and distribution, roll back regulations that don’t make sense in today’s environment, and develop a comprehensive plan that accounts for the numerous impediments to shifting energy production exclusively to electric power."

The bill joins a suite of legislation passed by the council and other governing agencies in D.C. to accelerate the jurisdiction's green transition.

Last year, the council codified the District’s emissions reduction goals, accelerating its commitments by aiming to make D.C. carbon neutral by 2045. A law also went into effect last year requiring 20% of parking spots at all commercial properties be EV ready, a goal which Allen’s bill would replace. 

Nationally, some experts think multifamily property owners are behind the curve on building out electric vehicle capacity. By 2030, $43B could be spent on residential EV charging, with about $2.5B spent on implementation at multifamily properties, McKinsey & Co. partner Shivika Sahdev told Bisnow in April

New federal funding is also likely to boost adoption. A $7,500 consumer tax credit for new EV purchases went into effect this year, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act set aside billions of dollars for the build-out of EV charging infrastructure nationwide, a portion of which the District plans to apply for. 

And while Reuters currently expects that about half of all cars on the road will be electric by 2050, Allen's bill cites a projection from MWCOG that about 90% of vehicles on the road would need to be electric by 2040 in order for the D.C. metro area to meet its climate goals.

This isn't the first time talk of electrification has caused consternation among the commercial real estate industry. In September, industry groups like AOBA testified against potential construction code changes in the District that would mandate EV charging capabilities and ban the use of natural gas in most applications for commercial buildings.

Utility company Pepco temporarily halted the adoption of that code proposal in September, citing concerns about how added capacity could affect the electric grid. 

The public utility has since backed off that stance, telling a meeting of the Construction Codes Coordinating Board more recently that it has no objection to the electrification proposal before the agency. 

The version of Allen's bill proposed last year instructed DDOT to submit a report on Jan. 1, 2024, assessing the capacity of D.C.'s electric grid to meet the demand from EV charging. 

Pepco said in a statement to Bisnow that it was reviewing the legislation, but that it "fully supports" the expansion of EV charging stations in the District.