St Louis County Council Mandates Businesses Install EV Charging Stations
The Saint Louis County Council recently passed a law that would require businesses and landowners in unincorporated Saint Louis County who renovate their properties to add electric vehicle charging stations to their parking lots. It remains to be seen if the county executive will sign it.
The new order affects new constructions, major remodels, parking lot reconstruction and overlay projects, and changes in use or occupancy classification. The changes apply to properties zoned for commercial, industrial, institutional, recreational, cultural, or municipal and park land uses. These properties must equip 2 percent of their parking spaces with electric vehicle (EV) chargers and have the electric wiring ready for another 10 percent of spaces on standby.
Not every property will be affected by this decision. But why should any?
The bill’s sponsor stated that its purpose is to incentivize more Missourians to drive EVs. However, EV ownership in Missouri, while small, is already increasing. Why not let property owners add EV charging spaces on their own and compete for EV drivers rather than force every renovating business to do so?
In addition to the bill’s warped incentives, it reeks of what economists call rent seeking, which is when companies use the political process to pad their bottom lines rather than providing a better service to customers. In this case, a prime beneficiary of the new requirements is local monopoly utility Ameren (which according to one councilmember lobbied heavily in the bill’s favor), which gets to make more money from captive customers simply by governmental order.
Another major problem is that installing EV charging stations is not cheap (they cost roughly $5,000 per unit). But the bill makes no mention of how property owners will pay for this. This is a government mandate that will squeeze business and property owners while only benefiting the existing electricity monopoly.
EV ownership is a personal preference. If more Missourians purchase EVs, businesses can make their own decisions about installing EV charging stations and competing for customers’ business. Shouldn’t competitive markets decide these kinds of things instead of government bureaucrats?