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Bill to fit new buildings for electric vehicle chargers gets initial approval

CITY HALL – Electric cars are ready to take over the roads, but only if they have a place to plug in when their batteries are low. Bills now before the Board of Aldermen are meant to ensure that there will be plenty of places to charge them up.

The bills would amend the building code to require charging stations or wiring and equipment during new construction of homes and commercial buildings. That would make it cheaper for owners of the buildings than if they did it later.

The bills, sponsored by 28th Ward Alderman Heather Navarro, received initial approval at Friday’s board meeting. A final vote on approval may come at this week’s meeting.

Heather Navarro, 28th Ward alderman

“Prices for these vehicles are coming down all the time,” Navarro told Board of Aldermen members at their video meeting Friday. Over the life of the vehicle, drivers could save about $6,800 per vehicle in fuel costs, she said.

The number of electric-powered vehicles in St. Louis is rapidly increasing, Navarro said. However, a serious problem is finding a place to charge, she said. St. Louis lags well behind other cities in the number of charging stations per capita.

The requirements would go into effect in 2022.

The bills require the installation of a new EV ready system for a single-family house with a garage, carport or off-street space nearby.  In EV ready, the electrical infrastructure is there, but more equipment must be plugged in before it can charge. Starting in 2024, one of those almost-ready-to-charge systems will be required for major renovation of a house where there is a garage, carport or off-street space nearby.

For commercial or multifamily construction with lots for 50 or more cars, 5 percent of the spaces would include an EV ready system, and an additional 2 percent would have stations ready to plug in.  Starting in 2025, 10 percent of the spaces in lots for more than 50 cars would have to have EV ready systems.

Fewer chargers or wiring would be required in lots with less than 50 spaces. There are no requirements for multifamily residential lots with less than five spaces and commercial lots with less than 10 spaces.

Doing it this way would be much less expensive, Navarro said. “It would be four to six times higher if you do it after the fact,” she said. Ameren Missouri can provide rebates for the installation, Navarro said.  It’s similar to what was done with legislation requiring the installation of wiring for solar electric usage in new construction.

High-turnover businesses such as restaurants and daycare centers are exempted.

“In some places, the market’s already driving this,” Navarro said. “We’re essentially setting a baseline for the city of St. Louis.”

Navarro said that the percentage of electric vehicle sales in St. Louis rose to 1 percent in 2019 from .3 percent in 2016.  By 2030, the percentage of registered vehicles in St. Louis that are electric-powered could be 10 percent, or even as much as 30 percent.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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