“Right now, even if you go get an electric vehicle, you don’t have any place to charge it,” said D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6). “We don’t have building standards that require charging infrastructure. We don’t create public charging infrastructure. We don’t do a whole lot.”
Allen, the new chairman of the council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment, introduced a bill Tuesday that would create a plan for how to boost charging options within residential and commercial districts across the city. The proposal, which is co-signed by each member of the D.C. Council, is the city’s latest effort to boost EV adoption while seeking to meet environmental goals and reduce pollution.
The bill would require developers of new residential and commercial buildings to include charging options in their parking plans and mandate that the city consider installing ports in major streetscape projects. The plan also would establish a permitting process for charging infrastructure at existing single-family homes and multifamily housing.
“It’s going to absolutely supercharge the District’s efforts around our charging infrastructure,” Allen said of the legislation, a version of which was introduced late last year and didn’t advance. The transportation committee is expected to schedule a hearing on the bill this spring.
Supporters say the proposal would allow the District to catch up with the demand for EVs as more residents and visitors choose electric over gas-powered vehicles.
The adoption of electric vehicles has been quick in the Washington region. In 2020, the area had more than 33,000 electric-vehicle owners — or about 1.7 percent of all light-duty vehicles — while there are more than 100,000 registered EVs this year across D.C., Maryland and Virginia. More than 5,200 electric vehicles were registered in the District last summer, according to records from the city’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
The increase in ownership has brought a jump in charging plugs in the District and its suburbs, from more than 300 in 2012 to more than 3,500 in 2021, according to a report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Allen’s proposal calls for a minimum of 7,500 public charging stations with at least two ports. It would require the District Department of Transportation to have at least 50 of those installed by Jan. 1, 2024.
The transportation agency also would be tasked with creating a plan in the next year to equitably guide decisions about where to deploy stations and determine the electric grid’s resiliency for increased EV charging. Allen said these early steps also will help the District better use federal funding becoming available over five years for charging infrastructure.
Hundreds of new electric vehicle charging stations are planned in the coming years along highways in the greater Washington region and nationwide as part of a multibillion-dollar federal program to deploy fast-charging systems.
The District, which is getting $16.6 million from the program, said in October that its focus this year will be on building the charging infrastructure along interstates 295 and 395, as well as sections of Rhode Island Avenue and New York Avenue in Northwest and Northeast, and Pennsylvania Avenue SE.
The bill before the council would expand a city pilot program, allowing DDOT to use federal infrastructure money to deploy charging stations in areas that lack the infrastructure. The proposal would put at least four charging stations in each ward as early as next year.
Antoine Thompson, executive director of the Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition, said the bill is a step in the right direction to ensure that widespread charging is available in the city. He praised the equity component of the proposal.
“The numbers in Wards 7, 8, and 5 are almost nonexistent,” he said, referring to limited charging stations in those wards. “Equity means we have to help those communities catch up.”
As the bill moves forward, Thompson said he hopes it will include local investment for charging at public facilities, such as community centers and libraries.
A grant program in the proposal would support expansion of fast-charging ports, which can fully charge a vehicle in as little as 20 minutes, and those that work more slowly.
The program would be created under the proposal for residents, nonprofits and business groups to help pay for port installation and upgrades. The grants, administered by DDOT, would be up to $4,500 for a Level 2 charging station — a common option for home and workplace settings, where it may take hours to charge — and up to $35,000 for installation of fast-charging stations.
New construction or major redevelopment of commercial and multiunit buildings that have three or more parking spaces would be required to include charging infrastructure after Jan. 1, 2024. Commercial buildings would be required to have electric vehicle charging with least 15 percent of dedicated parking spaces while multiunit buildings would need charging options installed with at least 20 percent of dedicated parking.
The proposal also would create incentives for builders and owners of single-family homes to install EV charging infrastructure and would give renters and condo owners the right to install charging ports.
Allen said the goals and regulation are necessary to prepare for a shift to EVs.
“There’s a lot of federal money that’s about to come to the District,” he said. “This is our opportunity to really harness this, so it sets very ambitious goals, but I think also very achievable.”