Electric-car charging infrastructure in Chicago could use a boost, and the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance Friday meant to pave the way for that.
Scheduled to take effect this fall, the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Ready (EVSE-Ready) ordinance would require property owners to reserve more parking spaces for electric-car charging, according to a press release from the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) watchdog group.
The Windy City previously required new construction consisting of at least 24 residential units reserve at least two parking spaces for electric-car charging. The new ordinance lowers that threshold to newly-constructed buildings with at least five residential units, and would require 20% of parking spaces to be reserved for charging.
For commercial buildings, previous rules required properties with 50 or more on-site parking spaces to reserve two spaces for electric-car charging. The new ordinance would require buildings with 30 or more on-site parking spaces to reserve 20% of those spaces for charging.
It would also change the Chicago municipal code so that a percentage of spaces would no longer merely be capable of supporting charging, but would be required to have charging equipment installed.
Installing charging stations and supporting electrical infrastructure during a building's construction is "thousands of dollars cheaper" than retrofitting later on, the National Resources Defense Council noted in a blog post.
Zoning laws have made expansion of urban charging infrastructure difficult, even as charging networks like Electrify America have continually added stations in other areas.
Many electric-car drivers rely primarily on home charging, but that often isn't an option for people living in apartments or condos.
Consequently, without zoning regulations specifically requiring charging stations, many urban areas run the risk of becoming charging deserts, with few options for electric-car drivers.
Detroit, for example, is the home of the United States auto industry, but Level 2 charging development in the city itself has been sparse, and it didn't get its first DC fast-charging station until late 2019. That's sent a mixed message as General Motors and Ford have moved to launch more electric cars.