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Opinion: Let Missouri cities plan for the electric vehicle revolution

Electric vehicles (EVs) are on the rise in Missouri. In the past decade alone, more than 11,000 EVs have been sold in the Show-Me State. As more Missouri residents hit the road in an electric car, making sure that it’s as easy to charge up your battery as it is to fill up your tank is crucial.

Missouri has made great strides in the past year to support EV charging infrastructure, including passing some of the first EV charging city ordinances in the Midwest. And, in the coming months, the state is set to receive $99 million to build out EV charging stations as part of the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Unfortunately, a piece of legislation that currently sits before the Missouri Legislature could pull the plug on the expansion of EV chargers in cities across the state.

Recently, HB 1584, which would inhibit cities and counties from adopting EV charging codes for new construction, was passed by the House and is headed to the Senate. The bill was in direct response to policies passed in St. Louis and St. Louis County last year, which require a percentage of parking spaces at newly constructed or renovated lots to have the necessary electrical wiring to support an EV charger or have a charger itself installed.

Also known as “EV-readiness” ordinances, these types of policies are some of the best tools that local governments have to encourage the adoption of EVs in their communities. An EV-ready parking spot has the wiring and outlet necessary to install EV chargers in the future. Some local ordinances also require installing charging stations in some new parking spots being built. Requiring these EV-ready upgrades during construction costs a fraction of the price to retrofit existing parking spaces. Importantly, these policies would not require businesses to install chargers on an existing property — they would only apply to areas undergoing new construction or serious modifications.

Supporters of this bad EV bill claim that EV-readiness codes will cost businesses money by drastically overestimating the cost of making their workplaces EV-ready. In actuality, these codes save businesses tens of thousands of dollars, as the cost of retrofitting existing parking spaces to be EV ready can be up to 75 percent more expensive. Installation costs for Level 2 chargers, which use a 240-volt port and add about 25 miles of range per hour of charge, range between $600 to $12,700 while the charging unit itself can range from $400 to $6500, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center. There are also incentives business owners can access to reduce the upfront cost of installation. Missouri utility Ameren has committed to distributing $5 million in incentives for small business owners to invest in EV charging stations, covering up to 50 percent of the installation cost.

And the benefits of EV-readiness policies don’t stop at cost-savings. Lack of charging is a well-known barrier to EV adoption. Nearly 80 percent of charging happens at home or at the workplace, so for residents like renters without access to at-home charging, having alternative places to charge becomes essential. EV-ready codes can help increase the number of available chargers where you work, shop, and even live. A U.S. Department of Energy study showed that someone with access to a workplace charger is six times more likely to drive an EV.

Everyone benefits when more people are driving electric vehicles because EVs produce zero tailpipe pollution. More electric vehicles in Missouri will help reduce air pollution and lower our contribution to climate change. Cities should be able to make their own decisions to meet the needs of their citizens. EVs are coming and we should not hamstring the ability of local officials to plan for their communities.

The trends for EV adoption are clear: Last year EV sales skyrocketed and more car companies are committing to selling exclusively electric and zero-emission vehicles in the next decade. At a time when we should be ramping up charging stations to meet the coming demand, HB 1584 would keep Missouri cities from passing necessary EV-ready ordinances. To protect public health, combat climate change and prepare for the changing car market, Missouri state legislators should vote NO on HB 1584.