EV chargers required for new construction under lawmaker proposal

As electric vehicle (EV) options become more abundant for consumers, Minnesota lawmakers want to ensure newly constructed properties will have the ability to charge them.

Under a new proposal being considered by legislators, the Minnesota building code would be amended to require "a minimum number of electric vehicle ready spaces, electric vehicle capable spaces, and electric vehicle charging stations either within or adjacent to new commercial and multifamily structures, and all new residential buildings that provide on-site parking." Within the bill’s language, an exemption for residential structures with fewer than four dwelling units would be removed from state law.

According to its author, Rep. Lucy Rehm (DFL-Chanhassen), the proposal is aimed at promoting the accessibility of EVs in Minnesota, and preparing the state for their "dramatic growth" among residents.

"Lack of access to home-charging is a significant barrier to EV adoption," Rep. Rehm told the House Labor and Industry Finance and Policy on Thursday. "It’s far more expensive to retrofit a parking garage for EV charging stations than to include such a capacity when the structure is originally built."

An amendment offered by Rep. Rehm during the committee specified the requirements for certain construction types, requiring single-family homes, two-family homes, and townhouses that provide on-site parking to be required to provide no less than one EV-capable space per dwelling unit or parking space, whichever is less.

Proponents of the legislation expressed the need to plan for what they see as an emerging market.

"It’s particularly important to plan ahead, as any new building that is built today is going to be standing for decades. We need to build today to accommodate the needs of current and future EV owners to prevent a lack of access to charging being a barrier for adoption moving forward," Carolyn Berninger of Drive Electric Minnesota told the committee.

However, several testifiers expressed concerns over the bill, including construction costs becoming prohibitive for new projects and the need for increased electrical infrastructure – notably increasing single-family homes from a 100- to 200-amp electrical panel.

"It could be thousands of dollars, and that decision should be left up to the new homeowner," Andrew Snope, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers replied to a question from Rep. Shane Mekeland (R-Clear Lake).

"We’re constantly talking about affordable housing, and I don’t see it happening with this anytime soon," Rep. Mekeland said. "We have all these things that keep getting added to the cost of housing every time we turn around. For every thousand [dollars] you increase the price of a home, you’re losing thousands of buyers."

Rep. Rehm contended that the cost would benefit any potential purchaser in the long run, saving them on costs to upgrade electrical service later when an EV is purchased.

In February, the Minnesota Department of Commerce opened applications for its EV Rebate Program, offering kickbacks to purchasers up to $2,500 for a new EV, and $600 for a used one.

The bill was ultimately laid over by the committee for possible inclusion in a larger collection of bills that would seek approval – known as an omnibus bill.