D.C. Council calls for big increase in number of electric vehicle chargers by 2027
The D.C. Council is aiming to prepare the District for the not-so-distant electric vehicle future.
All 13 council members have signed on to a bill that would require the District Department of Transportation to install at least 7,500 public charging stations by the end of 2027. Currently, the District is home to more than 5,000 electric vehicles, but only about 250 public chargers, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles and DDOT. Car buyers often cite charging as a top concern about electric vehicle ownership. Meanwhile, the regional Transportation Planning Board has said the region needs 90% of vehicles to be electric by 2040 in order to meet climate goals.
The "Comprehensive Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Access, Readiness, and Sustainability Amendment Act of 2023" would also give renters and condo owners more rights to install chargers and create a grant program to fund new or upgrade existing chargers. It also calls for more new construction to include at least some of the preparation to allow chargers in the future.
Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the new chair of the transportation and environment committee, introduced the bill.
"Charging infrastructure needs to become as common and reliable as how you think about gas stations today," he said. "But instead, they've got to be built into the places where you're already making that trip in the first place.
"Until we build the infrastructure out, we are never going to be able to achieve any type of real and meaningful shift in consumers to electric vehicles," he added.
Allen's bill doesn't prescribe where the chargers should go but mandates DDOT to figure it out. Four stations must be in each ward by the end of this year. The chargers must have two ports each. The councilmember said it would make sense to build them in places with "immediate impact" and in places where people are already going and spending 30 or more minutes, like offices, grocery stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
Lastly, the bill would give renters and condo owners the right to install a charger in their building as long as they follow safety codes and pay for it. He says the amenity should not be a luxury for some, but available for all.
"We have a lot of hurdles and a lot of barriers for renters or for condos or co-ops to be able to install EV charging — and that's a massive part of our housing stock here in D.C.," Allen said. "If we're talking about an apartment building, I think what you're likely going to see are residents working together as a resident council or tenant's association that works with the owner of that building or the property manager to be able to start building that infrastructure."
The bill's proposed grants aim to do just that. The program would give residents or businesses anywhere from $4,500 to $35,000 to install or upgrade charging infrastructure. Fast or Level 3 chargers — chargers that provide between 75-1,200 miles of range per hour — would get the largest grants. Level 2 chargers, the next step down, will juice vehicles up anywhere from 12-80 miles of range per hour and will still be eligible for grants.
Electric vehicle ownership is accelerating at a fast pace. Registrations in D.C., Virginia, and Maryland have risen about 65-fold in the past decade, according to the Washington Post. The federal $7,500 EV credit is also expected to increase the number of purchases.
DDOT, along with other state departments of transportation, has gotten federal funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to make sure there are chargers along interstate and highway corridors to facilitate reliable long-distance travel.
Last year, DDOT also created rules that allow residents who don't have garages or driveways to run a cord across the sidewalk, but only if they put a ramp over the cord.
Also last year, a new law went into effect that called for 20% of parking spots in new or renovated commercial and apartment buildings in D.C. to have the infrastructure to allow for future electric vehicle charging like sufficient power, wiring, and a junction box to accommodate vehicle charging equipment.
Allen's bill ups the stakes, calling for 15% of new or renovated commercial buildings to have 15% of parking spots have electric charging and 25% charging-ready. Multi-unit residential buildings should have 20% of spaces with chargers and another 20% charging-ready.
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