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New Mexico May Require EV Chargers in New Construction

A proposed change to the state code would mandate new construction projects to build between 1 and 20 percent of their available parking as electric vehicle charging spaces.

A proposed code change would require new construction projects in New Mexico to include electric vehicle charging infrastructure in parking facilities.

A draft provided to the Journal showed that, should the amendment be accepted as is, new construction projects would be required to build between 1 percent and 20 percent of their available parking as Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment spaces, which are ready to charge vehicles. The ratio depends on the type of project.

Other spots would be required to be electric-vehicle capable — built with infrastructure that would allow charging spaces to be fully installed in the future.

The state continues to receive input from stakeholders, but once a draft of the proposed amendment is finalized, a public hearing will be set before it heads to the Construction Industries Commission for approval or rejection.

A spokesperson for the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department declined to comment about the amendment.

About 1 percent of the cars registered in the state are fully electric or plug-in hybrids. However, since 2016, the number of registered plug-in hybrids in the state has increased five-fold. For electric vehicles, that number has increased 13 times over.

Dave Bradley, the owner of EV car dealership Magpie Motors in Albuquerque, said even over the past year, he's seen an increased demand for electric vehicles. He said the number of public charging stations is already insufficient for the number of EVs in the state — and he anticipates that demand will continue to surge.

"We know it's coming," Bradley said. "Let's get ready."

Vanessa Warheit, the national lead for the EV Charging for All Coalition, which recently presented to stakeholders about the proposed rule, said while New Mexico is behind California in adopting electric vehicles, it follows the same exponential curve. She anticipates that by 2035, 80 percent of new vehicle purchases in the state will be electric.

Between September 2022 and September 2023 the state has added 30 public charging stations, bringing the total to 543. The majority of those are in New Mexico's largest cities: Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces are home to approximately 60 percent.

Some towns have just one.

Range anxiety — the fear that electric cars will die on long trips — can make people hesitate to switch from gas-powered vehicles, Bradley said. Increasing accessible charging stations could help ease those worries, he added.

But the proposal has already generated concerns from developers.

Rhiannon Samuel, executive director of commercial real estate group NAIOP New Mexico, said the group generally supports beefing up EV infrastructure. But, she said, the early draft included high percentages of EV spaces that she feared would chill new construction projects.

Samuel said cost estimates range between $7,000 and $18,000 per charging station, depending on the required setup and voltage.

"As drafted, the ratios are not achievable," Samuel said. "We're in a time where we're grappling with rising interest rates, the cost of construction going up and a housing crisis that we're trying to be responsive to."

NAIOP offered an alternate proposal, which cut down the required percentages, Samuel said, and would like to work with the state on developing the proposal.

Warheit said retrofitting existing parking to include EV infrastructure is far more expensive than including charging spaces in new construction.

"If you're going to build parking, you need to build smart," Warheit said.

But Alan LaSeck, the executive director of the Apartment Association of New Mexico, said he worried that increased construction costs would be passed onto renters at a time the state struggles with a lack of housing. He said to meet the current proposed standards, quotes can be upward of several hundreds of thousands of dollars per multifamily property.

"That actually stops properties from being built," LaSeck said. "Or, we increase rent to make up the difference."

LaSeck said the "chilling effect" would be most evident in the affordable housing market, where increased building costs might make projects unfeasible. He added that the demand for charging spaces might not be that large for renters.

Daniel Pritchard, a Tesla Model 3 owner and organizer of the Taos Electric Vehicle Expo scheduled for this weekend, said the vast majority — 80 percent — of electric vehicle owners are also homeowners, not renters.

But, he said, more renters might be interested in switching to electric vehicles if they had charging stations available near their homes.

"(In apartments) it's very difficult for people to install their own EV charging — almost impossible," Pritchard said. "If there were a way for apartment building owners to put in a bank of charges, that helps solve some of the problem."

Bradley agreed with LaSeck that a mandate for charging spots could increase costs for builders, and thus, renters. But, he said the state could potentially offset those costs via incentives to apartment complexes "to up their game."

LaSeck also noted that most EV owners have a high median income, for New Mexico. He is skeptical that demand would increase as quickly as Warheit expects in the state, especially in some rural areas. One of his concerns, LaSeck said, is the rule would be applied evenly statewide, although certain areas may see lower EV ownership than Santa Fe or Albuquerque.

Bradley said although there are lower-cost EV models, current infrastructure gaps have made it more difficult for low-income people to drive electric.

"There's this misconception that you have to be very wealthy to drive EVs," Bradley said. "And, in fact, you really don't. There's plenty of working people who have electric vehicles — not all electric vehicles cost $100K."

Warheit said, especially as more used EVs come on the market, costs are coming down.

Bradley, who recently switched to the Chevrolet Bolt, said people can buy electric vehicles for between $10,000 and $20,000. The cheaper models, however, have shorter ranges, he said — so if there aren't many public charging stations, it can limit who is able to comfortably drive an EV.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed a clean car rule geared at manufacturers in July that would require car manufacturers to incrementally increase the proportion of zero-emission vehicles they send to the state. By 2032, 82 percent of the new cars sold in the state would be required to be zero-emission.

Pritchard said he thinks the state is close to seeing more people drive electric.

"We're just on the cusp of really taking off," Pritchard said. "It's going to take off exponentially."

(c)2023 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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