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St. Paul May Mandate EV Charging at New Parking Lots

Reasoning that the electric vehicle market is likely to grow, and retrofitting is expensive, the St. Paul, Minn., City Council may require future lots with more than 15 spaces to be EV-ready. They would have to have conduit for charging stations.

A row of electric vehicles parked and plugged into charging stations.
(TNS) — The St. Paul City Council will vote next Wednesday on new rules that would require new surface parking lots with more than 15 parking stalls to be developed with conduit capable of hosting future electrical vehicle charging stations.

The reasoning goes that while electric battery-powered vehicles are still a slim share of the auto vehicle market, they’re likely to boom with time, and retrofitting properties to make room for “EV chargers” can cost several times the price of installing the infrastructure upfront.

Following a public hearing last summer, the St. Paul Planning Commission recommended that the requirements roll out for all new surface lots of a certain size, regardless of whether they are commercial or residential lots. At the same time, they did not recommend requiring the installation of the chargers themselves.

“There is some concern that technology could change,” explained city planner Bill Dermody, during a recent presentation to the city council. “The folks who are developing or own properties do not want to have to put in technology today that will be out of date in a couple of years.”

Minneapolis, Bloomington and St. Louis Park all require the installation of actual chargers, though the number varies.

“What’s being proposed here is zero,” Dermody said. “In other places, 2 percent to 10 percent of spaces would have actual chargers.”


Dermody presented proposed zoning code amendments to the city council on March 27. Across the United States, he said, 7.6 percent of auto sales were purely electric battery vehicles last year, up from less than 6 percent the year before. That’s projected to grow heavily, reaching over 50 percent by 2030 or shortly after.

“Change is in the works. … It’s market watchers who are saying this,” said Dermody, noting government policy and consumer preference are both supporting the growth of EV industry. “And with more electric vehicles, there’s more charging need. … Most of that charging today happens in single-family homes. Most St. Paul residents will be (in) multi-family (buildings).”

In fact, some 44 percent of the city’s housing units today are in multi-family buildings. The city’s 54,000 multi-family units are expected to grow to about 65,000 units by the year 2040.

“Almost all that we’re planning to add in the next couple of decades will be multi-family,” Dermody said.


The proposed rules EV charging rules would apply to lots with more than 15 parking stalls, provided the lot requires site plan review, such as a new, expanded or heavily redeveloped lot “taken all the way down to the dirt,” he said, where “putting some pipes in the ground is not that much more, or a prohibitive cost.” A restriped lot would not trigger the requirements.

Under the proposal, future parking lots would have to be “EV capable,” meaning 80 percent of the new stalls would have conduit in the ground and appropriate spacing between electric panels. One stall out of every 30 spaces would have to be “EV ready,” or installed with all the necessary wiring and infrastructure except the charger itself.

Some developers have questioned whether commercial lots — such as a coffee shop, which a patron might visit for no more than an hour or two — should be treated the same as residential lots. Still, charging stations at commercial lots would better accommodate potential owners who have been hesitant to purchase electric vehicles because they’re unsure where to charge their “EV”s while driving out and about.

In response, city staff have recommended reducing the requirement for commercial lots so that just 20 percent of the new stalls would be “EV capable,” a proposal that has won the backing of Minneapolis-based Sherman Associates, which sent a representative to testify at a public hearing Wednesday before the city council.


Also testifying Wednesday was a Payne-Phalen resident, who noted that the city’s new network of EVIE Spot charging stations has been a ripe target for copper wire thieves.

The city’s Planning Commission held its own public hearing last July, and city staff have also presented details to the city’s Business Review Council and various property developers.

Dermody acknowledged that there is no market for EV cars in certain situations today, such as low-income senior housing, though that could evolve with time.

“We are not solving all the problems that have been identified,” he said. “Zoning can only do so much.”

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