Portland could require more electric vehicle chargers as it builds out of housing crisis

By Monica Samayoa (OPB)
Jan. 26, 2023 2 p.m.
A hybrid vehicle plugged in at a home charging station on Dec. 1, 2022.

A hybrid vehicle plugged in at a home charging station on Dec. 1, 2022.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

Portland is considering changes that would increase the required amount of electric vehicle charging infrastructure for new residential and multi-dwelling buildings.


Portland City Council heard public testimony on Wednesday on a proposal that would require newly built multi-dwelling housing, with five or more units that provide on-site parking, to install the necessary conduit and electrical panel space for EV charging infrastructure. It would require parking lots with more than six spaces to make 50% of those parking spaces (or at least six, whichever is greater) EV ready for level 2 charging, which requires a 240-volt outlet that triples the amount of charge an EV can get per hour. For smaller parking lots that provide six or fewer spaces, the proposal would require all spaces to be EV-ready.

Commissioner Carmen Rubio introduced the proposal, which is part of the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s EV Ready Code Project, a program that’s working to fill gaps in EV-ready charging infrastructure. She said the ordinance would help the city reach its climate action goals and put in place the infrastructure needed to meet future demand as EV sales increase.

“The updates focus on multi-dwelling and mixed-use residential development and recognize the need to equitably expand infrastructure to those that may not have the means, or may not own their own residence to install EV charging infrastructure,” she said.

Rubio said the changes exceed what is required at the state level, and shows that Portlanders have been early adopters who are embracing the technology.

The proposed changes come as Oregon and other West Coast states are planning to end the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Oregon’s transportation sector accounts for 40% of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions, the largest single source.

In Oregon, EV sales are booming. The state took second place in the nation in 2021 for the share of new electric vehicles sold, according to a recent analysis by national data firm Atlas EV Hub. As of October 2022, there are nearly 60,000 registered electric vehicles in the state, with an average of 1,000 registered electric vehicles per month, according to the Oregon Department of Energy’s data.

Ingrid Fish works on the bureau’s transportation and decarbonization policy. She said as of last July, new multi-dwelling buildings that have five or more units are required to make 20% of parking spaces EV ready.


But in October, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development increased that requirement to 40% of parking spaces in mixed-use or residential buildings. That decision takes effect in April.

“What we’re doing is we’re upping the 40% to 50% for Portland,” Fish said.

She said her group did extensive research and outreach to different communities, including renters, to understand what is needed for more people to adopt EVs and access charging stations. Currently, barriers like affordability, demand and access to charging stations have already created a gap for these communities. According to data from the Oregon Department of Energy in 2021, 78% of registered EVs are in wealthy and white areas.

“There will be a day when gas vehicles are unavailable and we need to ensure [Black, Indigenous and people of color] and low-income communities are not left out of that transition and are able to fuel their vehicles,” she said.

The proposal received overwhelming support from climate and environmental advocates who testified at the public meeting.

Climate Solutions’ Oregon Transportation Policy Manager Victoria Paykar said the proposal is another step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. She said currently renters are in a bind when it comes to making the switch from gas-powered vehicles to electric because they may not have chargers at their home.

“Having access to charging infrastructure in your apartment complex is a big deal to ensure that renters across Portland who want to make the switch to an EV are able to do so confidently knowing that they have an acceptable location to charge,” she said.

Local utilities like Portland General Electric and Pacific Power are also in favor, as well as EV-maker Tesla.

Commissioner Rene Gonzalez questioned whether the change would add more costs for developers as the city is scrambling to build more affordable housing units.

Fish said the cost to developers to install the electrical wiring for the chargers would be minimal.

Portland’s proposal is focused on builders and does not require landlords to install EV chargers in the newly built buildings or require old apartment buildings to make more EV charging available. Fish said that is something the city is still figuring out.

The proposal is set for a vote by the City Council on Feb. 8. If passed, the rule would take effect April 1.