Tucson City Council Moves in Favor of Increased Electric Vehicle Readiness; Rising Costs a Concern

The Tucson City Council recently approved an amendment to the Unified Development Code to ensure that new commercial development in Tucson is electric-vehicle compatible, commonly expressed as “EV-ready.”

“These new regulations would require all new commercial development, multi-family, office, and retail to include EV stations or outlets, as well as conduit to support future expansion of EV capacity,” according to the city of Tucson. “These new requirements come after more than a year of stakeholder and public engagement, community input, and technical analysis to develop the proposal.”

The new requirements entail increasing the percentage of parking lots equipped with EV charging functions. Proposed multi-family complexes will need at least 30 percent of parking to include outlets and conduits, while office buildings need 20 percent and retail locations must have at least 15 percent dedicated to EVs. Retail developments with more than 50 parking spots must equip five percent of them with charging stations.

The council also allowed builders to reduce the amount of regular vehicle parking by 30 percent to incentivize EV usage.

This newest development came over a year after the city adopted the Electric Vehicle Readiness Roadmap, a 10-year plan to encourage EV usage and address the much-discussed topic of climate change.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero called the amendment one of Tucson’s “August wins,” which also included receiving a $12.1 million grant to increase the electric bus fleet.

However, not everyone is on board with this news. According to Tucson.com, Alexa Scholl, director of government affairs for Tucson Metro Center, voiced concerns that costs will rise.

“We’re already seeing results of inflation making construction, in general, more expensive. There’s still interruptions in the supply chain so projects are taking longer,” Scholl shared. “Overall, another mandate is another cost on new businesses coming to Tucson.”

She also shared that increased construction costs could be “front-loaded” on tenants and owners of new housing units.

Equipment costs can vary. Conduits range from $22 to $43 per foot, outlets for parking spots can cost $15 to $50, and a full EV charging station can be as expensive as $7,000.

According to Arizona Public Media, the new rules will go into effect on December 1st. After a year of implementation, the city will review the impacts of the requirements.

Moreover, a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed that while EVs are overall better for the environment, their creation can still hurt the planet. The lithium-ion batteries used in EVs have robust usability; however, the raw materials needed to create them, such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, require chemicals and a large amount of water to mine, which can leave behind toxic waste. Also, 60 percent of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where there are concerns about child labor and human rights violations.

“If we don’t change how we make materials, how we make chemicals, how we manufacture, everything will essentially stay the same,” said Yang Shao-Horn, a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Furthermore, Science reported that dead EV batteries dumped into landfills could release toxins. Recycling batteries could also present a problem, as cutting into a Tesla cell could cause combustion or emit toxic fumes.

The news of Tucson’s new requirements came the same week California pledged to stop selling fuel-based cars by 2035, only to tell its citizens to avoid charging their EVs to prevent strain on the state’s power grid.

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Neil Jones is a reporter for The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Neil on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Electric Vehicles Charging” by Mjmakepeace. CC BY 4.0.


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