New city code would expand electric car charging at multi-unit dwellings

(Photo: Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability)

The City of Portland wants to make it easier for apartment and condo-dwellers to charge electric cars.

Thanks to Oregon’s House Bill 2180 that passed last year, it’s currently required statewide for new commercial, multi-dwelling and mixed-use buildings with more than five units to have electric car charging capacity in at least 20% of parking spaces.

The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) wants to kick that requirement up a notch with their Electric Vehicle (EV) Ready Code Project (EVRCP), a draft of which is now available for comment. The EVRCP would amend Portland city code to require new multi-unit dwellings to include electric car charging capacity for at least 50% of onsite parking spaces. If a multi-dwelling building has six or less parking spots, all of them will need to accommodate electric car charging.

State and local governments have honed in on expanding electric car use as a key way to reduce transportation-induced greenhouse gas emissions, which make up 43% of Oregon’s total.

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E-car charging in northwest Portland.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

This code amendment clarifies the requirement will only apply to buildings with onsite parking, complementing a parking and land use reform rule currently being considered by the Oregon Land Development and Conservation Commission that would cut parking mandates in urban and suburban areas across the state as part of Oregon’s Climate-Friendly and Equitable Communities Rulemaking.

The proposed BPS amendment wouldn’t negate that parking reform bill. If newly constructed multi-dwelling and mixed use developments don’t want to include on-site parking at all, they don’t have to. But the parking spaces they do have need to support electric cars.

The new rules are also an attempt to balance the playing field between people who live in single-family, detached homes versus those who live in apartments, condos, and so on.

“Access to charging that is reliable, convenient, and affordable is critical to enabling EV ownership. Some sources estimate that more than 80% of charging occurs at home,” the Discussion Draft for the EVRCP states. “However, rental housing tenants often lack the ability to access or install a charger where they park at home due to a lack of dedicated off-street parking, an inability to afford the expense of charger installation, or a property owner’s unwillingness to install a charger.”

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These rules are likely to heighten concerns by some active transportation activists that better electric car charging infrastructure should not leave out other EVs such as bicycles.

While statewide attention has mostly gone to electric car charging, the Oregon Department of Transportation has acknowledged the need to for micromobility charging as well – though it’s unclear how those needs will be met.

BPS’s draft document identifies the need to encourage using other modes of transportation, but it doesn’t mention anything about improving charging facilities for bicycle users:

Fundamentally, the number of private vehicles must decrease, the distance travelled must shrink, and alternative forms of electric transport (including electric buses, electric- scooters and electric bikes) must substitute for car trips. Making the city more attractive for walking and cycling is also an important strategy to reduce carbon from the transportation sector and to develop a low-carbon, resilient infrastructure system for Portland.

If you’d like to share feedback, use this online form until June 17. After comments are received, the city plans to release a proposal draft with a more specific implementation outline in August.

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Sigma
Sigma
1 month ago

“These rules are likely to heighten concerns by some active transportation activists that better electric car charging infrastructure should not leave out other EVs such as bicycles.”

Are there e-bikes that require something other than a standard 110-volt outlet? Can e-bikes even use faster/higher voltage chargers?

Will
Will
1 month ago

I’m not an electrical engineer, but I imagine it would be difficult to add a standard 110V to an EV charging station. I similarly wonder if it would be possible to retrofit street lamps to provide the same functionality.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  Will

Just to share my take on this: We shouldn’t have to figure it out! We pay taxes so city/state staff can provide us w services. My bottom line on this is I think people who ride e-bikes should expect and receive the same level of accommodation as people who drive e-cars.

I also think it’s suspect for us to further enhance driving options when many people cannot afford cars and cars have so many negative externalities. This just furthers the gap between biking and driving that every one of our adopted policy goals says we have to close. What’s up w/ that BPS?

Rain Waters
Rain Waters
1 month ago

so the gubmint built all those petro service stations ?

OMG, this is so far over the top it escapes orbit !

oliver
oliver
1 month ago
Reply to  Rain Waters

No, your tax dollars paid them to do it.

Coal, oil, and natural gas received $5.9 trillion in subsidies in 2020 — or roughly $11 million every minute —

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  oliver

Citation needed.

Boyd
Boyd
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s literally the first Google search result. That’s some lazy trolling, dude.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Boyd

You are claiming that we subsidize fossil fuels at a level that is double our entire federal budget. You can only get to that number by redefining terms to the point of oblivion.

For example, I don’t consider health impacts as a “subsidy”. By that logic, we subsidize everything that has an uncaptured externality. Which is basically everything.

Coal, oil, and natural gas received $5.9 trillion in subsidies in 2020 — or roughly $11 million every minute — according to a new analysis from the International Monetary Fund.

Explicit subsidies accounted for only 8 percent of the total. The remaining 92 percent were implicit subsidies, which took the form of tax breaks or, to a much larger degree, health and environmental damages that were not priced into the cost of fossil fuels, according to the analysis.

James Calhoon
James Calhoon
1 month ago
Reply to  oliver

No most gas stations are not owned by the oil companies. Think franchises like McDonalds.

Boyd
Boyd
1 month ago
Reply to  James Calhoon

Gas stations are selling a product that is heavily subsidized by the federal government. One could argue that their entire business model is dependent on those subsidies, and that the franchisees never would have built the gas stations in the first place if it wasn’t for government support and guarantees. The same could be argued for McDonald’s restaurants, which traffic primarily in government subsidized beef, chicken, pork, and dairy products. Without price supports for these products, fast food would be much more expensive, and it’s likely that the business model wouldn’t work for franchise owners, who wouldn’t build restaurants.

James Calhoon
James Calhoon
1 month ago
Reply to  Boyd

You will find that most gas stations make more money off there small store than they do selling fuel. At the gas station my wife worked at they have one or two people working the pumps The store and deli has up to 6 people working. They have to buy fuel from a distributer who buys it from the refinery. The question is how much do the subsidies the oil companies get trickle down to the small business owners running the gas station. My guess is very little if anything.

James Calhoon
James Calhoon
1 month ago

The city is mandating that the building owners put in chargers. But the city is not paying for the chargers or the electricity used to charge an EV. Most likely the building owners will partner with someone like Electrify America to provide the chargers and charge the EV owner the cost of charging. Most non-home chargers require a phone app to ensure payment. There is also communications between the EV and the charger. I cannot see A complex owner just providing receptacles to plug a home charger into. The best solution would be for the building to provide secure bike storage with electrical outlets that could be used to charge your electric bike.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  James Calhoon

Yes that sounds right to me James. I realize this is just a policy plan and that private companies will do the installs and pay for the equipment. My point remains that the City of Portland could have stronger policy language around “EV charging” that it must always include charging for all EVs, not just electric cars. Every time they leave out a more wider-lens framing around the “EV” conversation, the wider the gap becomes.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  James Calhoon

The city is mandating that the building owners put in chargers.

This policy only applies to new developments so it will impact developers, not to existing buildings. In essence it’s a nothing burger when it comes to “equity”.

Will
Will
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

In a tight rental market, a cost to developers is directly passed on to tenants.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Will

The vacancy rate for class A luxury rental housing (the vast majority of new rental housing) is not tight.

Will
Will
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

Source?

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Will

Multifamily NW quarterly report:

comment image

https://assets.noviams.com/novi-file-uploads/mfnw/October_2021_Rent_Survey_PDF.pdf

PS: I have participated in direct action that disrupted fancy MFNW galas many times and have zero remorse.

Will
Will
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

A 4.9% vacancy rate certainly isn’t healthy. When rents were flatlining and starting to decrease in 2019 the vacancy rate in the central city was over 11%

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Will

Wrong column.

A 5.9% vacancy rate is slightly above average.

Please also note the 2.5% vacancy for Class C housing. As I stated elsewhere, the real estate market is highly segmented.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Will

In a tight rental market, a cost to developers is directly passed on to tenants.

I strongly doubt it is. Landlords already charge as much as they can for rent (to do otherwise would be bad business). If development costs increase, developer or landlord profit may decrease, but rents would be unaffected.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  Will

Not difficult at all. A “level 2” charger is wired like a clothes dryer plug: 2 hot wires, a neutral, and a ground. Standard outlet is one hot, a neutral, and a ground. No need for any advanced circuitry or anything. They would just need to be sure that all lines are rated for total draw from all available outlets. Go to any State Park and you will see a 30 or 50-amp outlet next to standard 15-amp outlets, all in the same basic box.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fcampingsage.com%2Fwhy-i-need-an-electrical-hook-up-for-camping-in-my-tent%2F&psig=AOvVaw0uO_Kgim8ZDWSzyDbz2Qac&ust=1653428862032000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAwQjRxqFwoTCJDHndrM9vcCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAE

Sigma
Sigma
1 month ago

Let me re-state the question: do EV bikes need special infrastructure? Can’t essentially all of them plug into a standard outlet which is pretty much ubiquitous and can easily be added to any building? Are there bikes on the market that can even plug into a Level 2 or higher “fast charger?”

TheCat
TheCat
1 month ago
Reply to  Sigma

What happens if there are no standard outlets in the secured bike parking at the apartment or condo?

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  TheCat

I think that the vast majority of EV chargers installed as a result of this policy will be standard outlets (e.g. Level 1 chargers).

maccoinnich
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

The proposal is for Level 2 chargers

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  maccoinnich

Thanks for the correction.

This will dramatically increase costs given that commercial level 2 chargers have an upfront cost of $3,000-6,000 per unit and typically require service contracts.

It’s going to be fun seeing the howls from developers if this passes.

Sunnyrider
Sunnyrider
1 month ago
Reply to  TheCat

Most e-bikes have batteries that come off easily. You would just take the battery inside and charge it.

Having secure parking is the essential ingredient.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  Sunnyrider

I don’t want to get into the expectation that people will need to remove their e-bike batteries in order to charge them. That’s another hurdle for some people. It’s not always easy or obvious or possible to remove a battery and assuming folks can do it is part of what we need to stop doing if we want to create equity with drivers in terms of ease-of-use. Again, look at the experience of a driver and demand that a bicycle rider has the same or better. That’s how I look at this stuff.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago

So you want a public space that is safe to leave your ebike while charging. Good luck!

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Sigma

EVs can be charged on standard 120/110 V outlets and virtually all EVs come with a level 1 EVSE. 120V outlets (NEMA 5-15/20) can add 1-2 kWh* or ~4-8 miles of range per hr (depending on driving style and EV). Unless someone is driving >50 miles each day there is no reason to install expensive level 2 chargers.

*Some level 1 EVSEs or adapters to level 2+ EVSEs can charge at ~16A.

Gary B
Gary B
1 month ago
Reply to  Sigma

To my knowledge, only 110v. I wonder if it’s only a matter of time before e-bikes use 220v chargers, though. In any case, just access to a 110v plug where you store your bike is the point, I think. Easy in a house, but not so much at work or in multi-family housing.

Joseph E
1 month ago
Reply to  Sigma

They don’t need anything other than a 110 volt outlet, but they do need at least that! Most apartment and condo buildings are only going to have 1 or 2 outlets in a small bike parking garage or shed. That’s fine, until you have more than 2 or 4 e-bikes in the buiding.
If they have outdoor covered parking there might be 0 outlets provided currently.
The building / bike parking code could easily be updated to require a 4-plug outlet for every 4 long-term bike spaces. This would add less than $100 per bike parking space to the total cost of development, which is a minor cost compared to the $1000s that high voltage car chargers cost.
I imagine that e-bike users would also like to have the option of recharging at schools, shops and workplaces, or even other public spaces like parks and squares, so that there is less worry about running out of charge.

JaredO
JaredO
1 month ago
Reply to  Sigma

RE: ODOT’s new West Coast Electric Highway

Phase 1 upgrades to the network, which wrapped earlier this month, outfitted Oregon’s stations with more charger types and upgraded existing chargers to serve a wider range of electric vehicles, including e-bikes.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin
Reply to  JaredO

Yes! That’s such cool news. Working on a story about it for Wednesday.

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago

I don’t think that E-Bikes really need dedicated charging stations – especially at home. That’s part of their appeal. You can just charge the battery in a regular outlet. I’ve been thinking about getting an e-bike once I actually sell my car (to a buddy who needs it for longer work commutes) and I would definitely be storing it indoors so it’s not like an outdoor charging station in my apartments parking lot would be moving the needle. I think for longer-range trips on an e-bike, the general lack of public facilities for charging is quite annoying but more tied to the general lack of public facilities for everything. And I would rather spend political and real capital on more pressing things like public restrooms and water fountains than outlets personally.

Anyways, to my eye the most likely outcome of this is to reduce parking supply in apartment developments by making it more expensive to build parking – which is good news as far as I’m concerned.

pigs
pigs
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

I agree, I see better bike infrastructure and bike storage safety as a bigger hurdle for e-bike adoption. Can I ride my bike downtown, lock it up somewhere, walk around for a few hours while I walk around on foot, and not be worried an expensive ebike will get stolen? Why won’t the city make more safe bike lockers like they have at some transit centers and include a 110v outlet?

Rain Waters
Rain Waters
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

One miserable winter evening with a dead battery in a sketchy hood might give perspective.

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago
Reply to  Rain Waters

I mean that’s a pretty extreme worst case scenario, and you can still just use the E-Bike as a regular bike… If the area is so sketchy as to be concerning, I probably wouldn’t want to wait for a battery to charge anyways

TheCat
TheCat
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

Many people don’t want to store their bicycle in their apartment or condo. Wouldn’t it be nice if the apartment or condo provided parking for bicycles, just like they provide parking for cars, with enough outlets to charge every bicycle?

J_R
J_R
1 month ago

Beware of the potential for unintended consequences.

If all multi-family dwellings with six or fewer spaces requires charging stations for ALL units, won’t developers simply not provide any off-street parking? How would this impact the demand for on-street parking? How would it impact the desire to provide more affordable housing? If developers elect to avoid providing any on-site parking due to the charger requirement, will renters decide it’s not worth buying an EV and simply keep their ICE vehicle since they may have to park blocks away?

Will we see more extension cords draped across sidewalks as shown in the photo above? Is that a trip hazard or violate the Americans with Disabilities Act?

If developers choose not to build in Portland due to these new regulations, will they simply build in Gresham and Vancouver, thus increasing people’s commute distances? Will developers simply build McMansions instead of multi-family dwellings in Portland?

I’m not saying EV charging in multi-family developments is a bad idea, but we must think of what could go wrong as well as what benefits it may achieve.

TheCat
TheCat
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

Buildings without auto parking are cheaper to build and better for affordable housing. Making it more difficult to own and operate a personal auto (gas or electric) helps the climate. While some people will compete for the free on-street parking (which should cost money), some will choose not to own an auto.

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

You are operating with the implicit assumption that people will have a car. Reducing parking capacity is a net positive, since it incentivizes people to live with fewer cars. Demand for off-street and on-street parking isn’t a reason to justify more supply – great cities require vibrant urban spaces that are human scaled, and car storage is antithetical to that goal.

And frankly, on-street parking is one of the biggest wastes of public space imaginable. Dedicating half the right of way for free vehicle storage is just mind-numbingly bad land use. Imagine if 15% of the on-street parking capacity in Portland was dedicated to bikes or public transportation (15% of Multnomah county residents do not own a personal vehicle).

If a renter wants an EV now, they almost literally have no options for charging anyways… so having no parking vs. status quo parking with no chargers is hardly different. Developers use parking (including EV chargers) as perks/services that they provide to renters for a cost. My apartment’s lot costs 125$/month to park in – presumably if they added EV chargers, they would charge a premium for that as well.

And there already is basically no incentive for anyone to build affordable housing – because there never will be. Developers don’t want to deal with the hassle that comes with affordable housing anyways. The best way to solve a housing crisis is with public housing – that is what the US did in the post WWII era, there is no reason we can’t do it now.

J_R
J_R
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

“The best way to solve a housing crisis is with public housing – that is what the US did in the post WWII era, there is no reason we can’t do it now.”

That worked out well, didn’t it? Do a search for Cabrini-Green.

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

I am well aware of the history of Cabrini-Green. The CHA and Chicago housing politics in the second half of the twentieth century are horrendously despicable. But Cabrini-Green didn’t exist in a vacuum – it suffered from horrible planning from the very beginning. The CHA putting as many units as possible in a super expensive, right next to the Loop tract (some of the most valuable real estate in the world) led to extreme cost cutting for public amenities and awful construction practices. Combined with the violent racism of the era (think of the 1951 riot in Cicero), and racist FHA policy that required segregated housing nationwide the end result of ghetto conditions is not surprising in retrospect.

But if you are implying the Cabrini-Green and other notorious public housing projects are inevitable because they are public, you are misguided. Having smaller, mixed-income public housing with consistent investment by housing authorities that are actually pleasant to live in should be prioritized.

Boyd
Boyd
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

Cabrini Green? You mean the Chicago housing project that was highly successful for decades, but which eventually failed due to government neglect and deferred maintenance and repairs? It’s a polemic about what happens when governments fail to live up to their commitments. That’s not proof that public housing doesn’t work. It just m shows that you can’t expect housing to be affordable and self sustaining at all times (same goes for market rate housing, by the way, which also frequently falls into disrepair when maintenance is deferred).

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Boyd

Public housing only works when governments live up to their commitments to stay current on maintenance and repair.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it can work over the long term.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Outside of the USA this is simply not a contestable point.

In the USA governmental/societal support for many basic human rights has not worked over any term.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

The classic liberal freedoms of the type enumerated in the constitution have fared pretty well.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Yes, just ask BIPOC people.

Damien
Damien
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

And there already is basically no incentive for anyone to build affordable housing – because there never will be. Developers don’t want to deal with the hassle that comes with affordable housing anyways. The best way to solve a housing crisis is with public housing – that is what the US did in the post WWII era, there is no reason we can’t do it now.

Just want to repeat this for emphasis.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  J_R

Car chargers aren’t cheap, but they aren’t that expensive either, so like many amenities that tenants like/want/need, they will just make everyone pay for them within their rent. It is unlikely that this requirement would be sufficient to cause a developer to not undertake a project, particularly if they are partnering with a third party charging service and can expect some amount of revenue having provided the chargers.

Pretty sure what is above with the cones and a mat over the cord would not be in violation of ADA, nor would they be overly exposed to litigation as they have made a good faith effort to identify the obstacle and also cover it. Typical trip hazards with litigation issues are higher than the thickness of an extension cord, so yeah, probably just going to see a lot more of that.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

if they are partnering with a third party charging service and can expect some amount of revenue having provided the chargers

A commercial charger install in a low-use setting like an apartment parking lot would not only cost thousands of dollars but would likely require a service/maintenance contract.

Few commercial EV chargers make a profit so there is no revenue to share.

https://scripts.betterenergy.org/reports/GPI_DCFC_Analysis_July_2019.pdf

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

Say they cost $10k to put in, on a 100 unit building with a per unit cost in Portland maybe averaging $250k for lower quality apartments, that increases the cost to the project $500k, or 2%. A developer is not not going to build that project for an extra $500k in cost, they will just raise everyone’s rent $145 per month and in 3 years they have their money back.

I am not terribly surprised from the report that the I-94 run across Wisconsin and Minnesota does not drive sufficient support to make chargers of EV’s profitable. I would argue the Portland market is different, but still the hurdle to adoption is not the cost of chargers, it is the cost and range of the vehicles.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

An example of what CRE pundits think about EV chargers:

Here are a few other reasons landlords might be hesitant to add EV chargers to their property:

• Additional costs—an EV charger that operates on 240 V circuits, also known as a Level 2 charger, costs on average $6,000 to install. Landlords might also have to pay extra to upgrade the panel so it can accommodate the higher-level circuit. Adding a simple outlet to a parking lot could cost more than $10,000.

• Extra work—CRE owners, property managers and landlords could wind up being the “EV charger” police to ensure that electric vehicle owners don’t remain in a charging parking spot once they’ve finished powering up their car. They might also have to resolve disputes when a tenant who drives a conventional vehicle park in an EV-dedicated spot.

• Fire risks—some EV’s have had past issues where they’ve caught fire and burned up, sometimes inside residence garages. While fire risks could happen with any type of vehicle, but a charging EV could increase that risk

• Higher electric bills—EV’s are more eco-friendly and energy-efficient than traditional vehicles from a fuel standpoint, but they aren’t inexpensive to “fuel”. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) fuel economy site, Tesla and Ford have EV models that cost $750 per year to charge.

Unless your tenant is paying for the electricity, a wise rental property owner would steer clear of offering a charging location for an EV,” Mashvisor’s John Goreham wrote.

http://connectedremag.com/smart-buildings/proptech/how-can-office-and-apartment-landlords-provide-charging-for-all-those-electric-vehicles/

“I would argue the Portland market is different, but still the hurdle to adoption is not the cost of chargers, it is the cost and range of the vehicles.”

For tenants, the vast majority of whom would see no benefit from this new policy, not having access to chargers near to their homes is also a huge disincentive. Regardless of the cause, I think the main problem with EVs in the USA is that their simply isn’t a lot of demand for these vehicles:

comment image

quicklywilliam
quicklywilliam
1 month ago

I don’t understand why the requirements should be higher for developments with fewer parking spaces. Don’t we want to encourage these kinds of developments?

Boyd
Boyd
1 month ago
Reply to  quicklywilliam

I think the general idea is that parking spaces are not being viewed as necessary. If you are going to provide parking, it should accommodate electric vehicles. But you can just not build any parking at all.

Bryan Morris
Bryan Morris
1 month ago

Or you could just ride a regular bicycle powered by your muscles instead of an electric moped.

maccoinnich
1 month ago

These rules are likely to heighten concerns by some active transportation activists that better electric car charging infrastructure should not leave out other EVs such as bicycles.

For what it’s worth, Portland’s zoning code requires bicycle parking (and doesn’t usually require vehicular parking). 5% of the required bicycle parking spaces have to have access to an electrical outlet.

AnnieBRides
AnnieBRides
1 month ago

Two things:
1) I think municipalities everywhere have to require this as more states push for an increase in the number of EVs sold and on the road. And yes, they absolutely have to figure out how to require charging of EVs (all kinds) at existing multi-family housing as well.
2) We have to make things EASY if we want people to change to EVs or bikes of any kind. We have to remove barriers to improve both our physical and environmental health. If gas-powered vehicles are still the easiest option because the infrastructure is already there, that’s what people will continue to use. Case in point: Just today, I struggled to find bike parking at a doctor’s office. Could have pulled my car in right in front of the doors. Locked my bike in make-shift fashion to a railing because there were no racks and certainly no where to charge my bike.