Half of Portland’s New Multi-Family Project Parking Spaces Must Support Future EV Charging Stations

There’s no doubt that electric vehicles are gaining in popularity and can be an important component in lessening greenhouse gas emissions and meeting clean air standards. But it’s a classic chicken and egg scenario. More cars need more charging stations and some people may be hesitant to purchase them without more stations. And the group that’s facing the biggest challenges are those who rent, where a dedicated outlet is not available.

According to a briefing prepared last year by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for The Department of Energy, a total of just under 19 million electric vehicles are being forecast to be on the road by 2030. That means an additional 9.6 million charging stations will be needed to meet that demand. Further hastening the need, policymakers for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality have approved a rule that prohibits the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger vehicles in Oregon by 2035.

Cities and states around the country and world are requiring new multi-family construction buildings to install EV-ready infrastructure. EV-ready infrastructure typically means the installation of conduit and electrical capacity to support EV chargers. According to proponents, installing EV infrastructure at the time of construction increases equitable access and is significantly less expensive than installing after construction.

According to the State, Oregon currently has 59,141 EVs registered, of which 16,414 are in Multnomah County. What may be more illustrative is the amount of growth since 2018. All three Counties of the immediate Portland Metro area have experienced more than a 300% growth since 2018. And Portland has ambitious goals. In fact, the City Council committed to reducing carbon emissions in Portland by 100% from 1990 levels by 2050. 

Phil Nameny, City Planner for Portland in the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, also shared that a recent Oregon Public Broadcasting article indicates that the State of Oregon was 2nd in 2021 in EV vehicle sales and tied for 2nd in 2022 when compared to the rest of the country. There are also current state and federal rebate programs for EVs that are also contributing to the growth. And since multi-family dwellings are expected to last up to 100 years, planning must be done now for the future.

Transportation is also responsible for 43% of Multnomah County carbon emissions, so electrifying vehicles is crucial to meeting carbon reduction goals. A key strategy to reduce Portland’s transportation emissions is to transition to a fossil-fuel free transportation system. In addition, because of the higher adoption of EVs in Oregon and the Portland area, and because the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) has already expanded the EV national requirement from 20% to 40% for multi-dwelling and mixed-use development with at least five units, Portland is getting ready to implement a requirement for multi-dwelling and mixed-use developments with at least five dwelling units to follow these guidelines for any new permits after March 31:

  • 50% of onsite parking spaces are EV-ready or 100% of six or fewer onsite parking, whichever is greater.
  • Electrical capacity and conduit to support at least Level 2 charging (currently being defined by the State) for the number of spaces specified above.
  • Changes that address existing code affecting incentives and upgrades for EV include:
  • Adding development standards (e.g., placement) for voluntary and required EV-ready installations.
  • Clarifying how EV-ready installations are categorized in land use code (e.g., primary versus accessary use).
  • Targeting certain incentives to include EV charging for car sharing and carpool parking, while also exempting EV improvements from nonconforming development.
  • Amendments to the Zoning Code that acknowledge EV-ready installations because the current code is silent on this infrastructure.

Dive deeper here to learn more about the context between the state building code, the state land use requirements, and Portland’s zoning requirements and implementation guidelines..

According to Nameny, in addition to rebate programs to help lower the cost of EV ownership, the regional utilities are exploring grant programs to help cover the cost for installing EV chargers, with a focus on affordable housing projects. There is also a program coordinated by the Oregon Department of Transportation to provide EV chargers in targeted areas along the State highways. Portland Transportation (PBOT) is developing a program to provide chargers along the street in targeted areas as well. 

These changes are necessary because, according to an article in Fortune.com – policies that provide equal access to charging are critical because with tax incentives and the emergence of a robust used-EV market, zero-emissions cars could finally be within financial reach for lower-income drivers, according to Ingrid Fish, who is in charge of Portland’s transportation decarbonization program.

What are the specifics that those in multi-family real estate development need to know? For the current/future EV charging stations, a designated location on building property, in or adjacent to a landscaped area, can be used for installing remote service for electric vehicle charging stations; with a conduit system installed from building electrical service, or from the dedicated spaces or locations described above to parking spaces that can support, at a minimum, electrical wiring for installation of Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations and, if the conduit is for future installation of electric vehicle charging stations, that labels both ends of the conduit to mark the conduit as provided for future electric vehicle charging stations.

Some other considerations for those in multi-family real estate developments include: 

  • The electrical load thresholds used to determine billing rates
  • Whether tenants will be charged for the power they use to charge vehicles (and if that could potentially be a profit center to help offset the additional cost of providing the infrastructure)
  • If the electric usage is tied to individual dwellings or on a shared circuit system
  • Proximity to dwelling entrances if all the charging stations don’t come online at once
  • Planning for the future capital expense of actually running wire and installing charging stations if all that is done now is to lay conduit/install a junction box as required
  • Potentially setting aside certain dwellings within a complex for EV owners because the charging stations are in place
  • Potentially creating charging stations open to the public in designated areas as a profit center
  • Whether or not the property is located in an area that qualifies for a tax credit.