The number of electric vehicles (EVs) is increasing rapidly in the U.S. and worldwide. Wisconsin saw an increase from 319 EV registrations in 2013 to 9,039 EV registrations in 2021 and 13,893 EV registrations in 2022. The increase is driven by several factors, including advances in technology, cost savings for EV owners, decisions made by state policymakers, and commitments by automakers. By the year 2030, there may be as many as 19 million EVs on the road in the U.S.
Adopting EV charging standards can save businesses and homeowners money because it’s much less expensive to install EV charging infrastructure during new construction than it is to retrofit buildings after they are built. Municipalities need to plan for the increasing number of EVs and the cost savings of installing EV charging infrastructure during new construction so that residents can access charging stations at businesses and their homes.
What Policies Help Ensure EV Readiness?
In Wisconsin, the two main tools that take advantage of building and parking infrastructure to move us toward EV readiness are zoning and building codes. The following offers a short explanation of each policy tool, its current status in Wisconsin, and examples.
More than fifty state and local governments in the U.S. have enacted zoning ordinance amendments or building code amendments to ensure EV readiness. Each local government decides individually which provisions to include in their general zoning ordinances. Zoning ordinance amendments for EV chargers typically have three components:
- EV charging definitions
- Designated zoning districts for EV charging stations
- Requirements for electrical wiring and other infrastructure for EV chargers in new construction (optional)
When deciding where EV charges will be permitted, it is important to keep in mind that, unlike gas stations, EV charging stations don’t create the risk of fuel spills, underground fuel leaks, or fumes. Example approaches include:
- Allowing Charging stations in all zoning districts as was done in Des Moines, IA
- Allowing level 1 and 2 charging stations in all districts and allowing level 3 fast chargers in industrial and highway commercial districts as was done in Chelan, WA
You can choose from the menu of zoning provisions for EV chargers in Ready for Electric Vehicles? Modifying Local Land Use Policies starting on page 8 to tailor ordinance provisions to fit your community.
State and Local Building Codes
Wisconsin has a state-level Uniform Dwelling Code (UDC) and a Commercial Code that are adopted by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Public Services. This does not include standards for wiring or other EV charging infrastructure. Municipalities cannot alter these building codes, so they are precluded from including EV charging station requirements. This is true for the state’s Uniform Dwelling Code for one and two-family dwellings and the state’s commercial building code.
Many states and municipalities use the International Building Code as their base code and may add additional standards to tailor the code to their community.
- International Building Code. The International Building Code (IBC) is updated every three years, and the 2021 code went into effect in October 2021. The IBC is a set of voluntary guidelines used by many states. The 2021 IBC calls for one EV-ready parking space, which means installing panels, outlets, and conduits capable of charging at least one full-size EV in a single-family garage overnight. Multi-family buildings will need two EV-ready parking spaces, along with more that can be easily retrofitted, a standard known as EV-capable. The decision to install an EV charger is left to the property owner.
- State and local building codes:
- In the central part of the U.S., Minnesota, Kansas, and North Dakota have adopted the 2018 IBC in their state building codes.
- In contrast, Wisconsin has its own residential code, known as the Uniform Dwelling Code (UDC) for one and two-family dwellings based on the 2009 IBC, and a commercial building code based on the 2015 IBC.
- On August 10, 2023, the Wisconsin Senate Housing, Rural Issues, and Forestry Committee rejected an update to bring the state’s commercial building codes up to date with the 2021 IBC.
- A Wisconsin law passed in 2013 established a uniform statewide commercial building code and prohibits municipalities from adopting or enforcing their own standards, making Wisconsin one of only three states to restrict local control, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Similarly, the Wisconsin UDC does not allow municipalities to adopt more stringent standards. The current Wisconsin building codes do not include standards for EV charging standards, and communities cannot add these standards to their building code. Wisconsin is working on updating its building codes, which are outdated. Big EV infrastructure questions in these updates are as follows:
- Will Wisconsin adopt a UDC and commercial code that includes current EV infrastructure standards?
- Will Wisconsin change from one-size-fits-all UDC and commercial code to allow communities to choose to tailor their building codes, which could include requiring EV-ready parking spaces?
Driving electric has many benefits. The number of EVs and EV charging stations are increasing rapidly. While current EV drivers in the U.S. charge 80% of the time at home, one-third of Wisconsin households rent their home and do not get to decide if EV charging is available where they park. The installation of EV charging infrastructure is four to six times less expensive when included during new construction versus a building retrofit. Because of this, EV charging standards in building codes and zoning ordinances can save businesses and homeowners money.
Each local government decides individually which provisions to include in their general zoning ordinances. Zoning ordinances are useful tools for local governments to indicate where public EV charging is allowed or prohibited. Local governments may also choose to require electrical wiring and other infrastructure for EV chargers in new construction.
EV charging standards are not included in the current statewide Wisconsin UDC or commercial building code. Current Wisconsin laws do not allow communities to voluntarily add EV charging standards to their building codes. When tailoring EV charging standards to fit communities, we can learn from the many states and communities that have already amended their zoning ordinances and building codes to ensure EV readiness.