To accelerate the transition to clean transportation, the Biden administration recently proposed the most stringent-ever air pollution standards for automobiles. That should be welcome news for Los Angeles, which consistently ranks among the most polluted cities in the nation and currently sits atop the American Lung Association State of the Air rankings. Combined with California’s 2035 ban on the sale of new gas-powered cars, the EPA’s tailpipe emission proposal will accelerate the already rapid shift to electric mobility (e-mobility). BloombergNEF predicts electric vehicles (EVs) will out-sell traditional passenger cars beginning around 2030. More EVs on L.A. streets means cleaner air, fewer climate-altering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and quieter streets. But there are often overlooked economic benefits to EV adoption for builders and developers as well — especially today.
What it means for commercial developers and builders
California already has among the most ambitious building requirements in the U.S. for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. It’s no wonder ChargePoint (the company I work for) ranks L.A. in the top five among EV-friendly regions in the country. For example, 30% of all the parking spaces in new multi-family residences, hotels, motels and parking facilities must be “EV capable.” That is, a dedicated “EV only” parking space wired to support a future charging station. When complete, 10% of parking spots in those types of buildings must be outfitted with working stations, also known as “EV installed.” For new non-residential developments, the number of EV installed spaces is also 10%. To ensure equity, some cities — including San Francisco, SeattleBrookville, MD and Vancouver, BC — go even further, mandating that 100% of stalls in new multi-family communities be either EV-capable or installed. With few exceptions, commercial real estate developers and builders won’t be able to avoid an EV future.
An opportunity among the regulations
That’s a good thing because, unlike polluting and toxic fossil fuels, which are subject to unpredictable price fluctuations, electricity is comparatively inexpensive, pervasive and can be distributed anywhere there is a panel and a plug — and EV drivers always know what they’re going to pay per kWh. As Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International vice president of advocacy and building codes put it when we chatted with him at last year’s Greenbuild event, “We look at this in commercial real estate as a real opportunity.” He noted that, in addition to being a potential revenue generator, EV charging is an amenity that can help to draw people back to the workplace, adding, “There is absolutely a business model for electric vehicle charging within our parking structures.”
A tectonic shift in transportation The shift to EVs will be the biggest transformation in transportation in more than a century. With an installed base of nearly 290M vehicles on U.S. roads — over 2% of those in L.A. County alone — the transition to EVs has the potential to rival previous disruptions in communications and entertainment. Unlike those transformations though, any business with available parking spaces will be able to participate. As mentioned, businesses can use charging as a benefit to entice employees back to work. In addition, multi-family property owners can attract and retain and even justify higher rents. Hospitality and retail businesses can bring in more customers and parking operators can lure EV drivers to their facilities. ChargePoint predicts an entire 30-minute (the average EV dwell time to top up) retail economy will spring up around charging now that fueling will no longer be relegated to highway off-ramps and convenience store fare.
Adding lasting value
Of course, the ultimate goal with all these new initiatives is to win the battles against climate change (which disproportionately affects California) and pollution (likewise, Los Angeles). With a better quality of life for residents on the horizon and the understanding that once-empty parking spaces can become a beacon for potential residents and increase a property’s value, everyone from developers and builders to property owners and managers has an incentive to embrace the new regulations for sound business reasons. Speaking of incentives, there’s another reason to begin implementing an EV strategy sooner rather than later… incentives.
Incentives, incentives everywhere… but not forever
When it comes to rebates, grants and tax credits, there is no state with more opportunities to save money on EVs and charging infrastructure than California (see incentives). In Los Angeles alone, there are dozens of programs to encourage the switch to e-mobility, many of which can be combined to maximize savings. But they will not be around forever as electricity increasingly replaces gasoline as a fuel and electric vehicles become simply “vehicles.” Once a nice-to-have amenity, EV charging is now an imperative for the commercial real estate industry. Fortunately, doing what’s best for the planet can also be good for the pocketbook. But the clock is ticking. No matter what stage of EV charging deployment you’re in, ChargePoint can help you get started.
*USGBC-LA Note: Please join USGBC-LA’s Women in Green Breakfast Presents the Inflation Reduction Act on Sept. 7, 2023 at 7:30am. ????
About the Author
Suzanne Goldberg manages all aspects of North American policy for ChargePoint, ensuring that local and national policies support the electrification of mobility in ways that work for all. Before joining ChargePoint, Suzanne was Director of Research and Outreach for the Sustainable Transportation Action Research Team at Simon Fraser University and a Senior Partner at Navius Research, among other roles. She holds a Master of Resource Management in environmental economics and policy analysis from Simon Frasier University and an Honours Bachelor of Commerce in Business from McMaster University. She is also a Director on the board of Electric Mobility Canada. To find out more, visit ChargePoint.com