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Anyone building or reconstructing large surface parking lots in St. Paul would have to include the infrastructure for electric vehicle chargers, under an ordinance the City Council heard Wednesday.

The proposal aims to bring St. Paul closer to meeting climate policy targets and projected market demand for electric vehicles (EVs), city planner Bill Dermody said in a presentation to the council.

Retrofitting EV charging infrastructure is significantly more costly than integrating it into new construction, especially for multi-family developments, he said.

"If left solely to market forces, meeting future EV charging infrastructure needs will be much more costly and potentially leave many people struggling to participate in the EV revolution," Dermody wrote in a memo, adding that the code changes "could help the city satisfy some of that demand in a more proactive, cost-effective and equitable manner."

Under the proposed ordinance, developers building, expanding or reconstructing a surface lot with more than 15 parking spaces would need to make at least 80% of spaces "EV capable," with electrical conduits in the ground and sufficient space in electric panels. Larger lots would also be required to make at least one out of every 30 parking spaces "EV ready," with wiring for a charger installed.

Developers would not be required to purchase and install chargers, though wiring and other infrastructure would need to be capable of charging at Level 2 or higher power.

St. Paul's proposal only applies to surface lots because other parking structures are governed by the state's building code. The Legislature last year directed the Department of Labor and Industry to add state requirements for EV charging in parking structures and for parking associated with commercial and large multifamily buildings.

A state advisory group will start meeting next week to study the issue and recommend EV-related provisions to the code, a process that typically takes about three months, a department spokesperson said. Updating the building code is a more lengthy process, so any new state requirements will not be enforceable until mid-2026.

Other cities such as Minneapolis, Bloomington, St. Louis Park and Roseville have implemented minimum EV parking requirements in recent years to encourage and prepare for wider adoption of electric vehicles.

St. Paul's Climate Action and Resilience Plan, approved by the council in 2019, set a target of increasing its number of electric vehicles to 33% of on-road traffic by 2030 and 80% by 2040.

With transportation blamed for roughly 30% of greenhouse gas emissions in St. Paul, city leaders set a goal of citywide carbon neutrality by 2050.

The city owns 23 public charging stations and is a partner on the EV Spot Network, a collection of 70 charging hubs across Minneapolis and St. Paul with spaces for privately owned electric vehicles.

That network also serves the cities' Evie car share, a fleet of more than 170 electric vehicles that can be used for one-way trips ending in the program's Minneapolis and St. Paul service area.

The St. Paul council will hold a public hearing on the proposal next week, and a final vote could take place as soon as the following week.