Moriwaki: If BI builds EV, society will buy EV

Clarence Moriwaki has his own version of “if you build it they will come.”

He’s not talking about a baseball field like Kevin Costner was in the classic movie “Field of Dreams.” He’s referring to building parking spaces with electric vehicle charging capabilities.

The Bainbridge Island City Council discussed its EV charging code at its meeting March 19.

Councilmember Moriwaki said one reason people may be reluctant to get an EV is “range anxiety.” People are afraid they will run out of power. Let’s make it “more attractive to get an electric vehicle” by adding to the number of places people can get a charge, he said. “Let’s help us turn around our use of internal combustion. Stop in and get those few extra miles to help exacerbate the use of EV in society.”

The council is looking at its code again because of complaints from Helpline House that it is more stringent than state law and therefore more expensive.

Mayor Joe Deets said he’s all for “pushing the envelope” when it comes to protecting the environment, “but it has to make sense.” He said he doesn’t “want to do away with our ordinance,” but it would be OK to “pull back so we don’t have that high cost.”

Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos said she likes that the BI code is tougher than the state’s, and she hopes they don’t back off. She wants more information on the costs. But she also thinks commercial and multifamily should be treated differently since most people charge their cars at home.

Councilmember Ashley Mathews suggested a compromise. She said people normally charge their cars at home anyway. “I have an electric car, and I only charge it at my house. I wouldn’t know how to use” a charger somewhere else.

Hytopoulos said she’s had an electric car for 12 years, and usually charges it at home. However, “It’s not magic or scary.”

Jonathan Davis, representing Helpline House, said because of its expansion it would be required to have 30 of its 47 parking spaces at some kind of EV capacity. “That would kind of kill the parking lot,” he said, adding it possibly would have to build more parking spaces. He said that doesn’t make sense to have so many spaces that “maybe get used. The state code is a nice balance.”

Councilmember Leslie Schneider was concerned about more parking. The council has usually been against paving more of BI. “We could back off and let the state requirement be our minimum for right now,” she said, adding it wasn’t that long ago the council passed the code, and it was “dead simple it was the right thing at the time.”

She mentioned that Town & Country is putting in high-powered charging stations that can recharge a vehicle in about the same time it takes to fill up at a gas station. Moriwaki compared it to using a garden hose at home compared to a fire hose there. Schneider said it feels weird that the city code is a gas station equivalent.

Moriwaki predicted that we will all be “electric within a few decades. He said he takes advantage of free EV charging at numerous locations. “More and more on the road need these charging stations,” he said. “On Bainbridge, Tesla is like the official car. We’re trying to be forward-thinking.”

State vs. local

BI senior planner HB Harper explained that EV charging infrastructure is now required by the state in construction projects. BI code exceeds the state standard when it comes to commercial and multifamily construction. For example, the state code is only for new buildings, while the city’s is also for building expansion.

She talked about the three tiers. The city passed its law in 2023, while the state’s law just went into effect March 15.

-EV capable: Provides conduit. State commercial and multifamily 10% of spaces; City of BI 20%.

-EV ready: Provides voltage. State 10%. City: 30%.

-EVSE: Provides supply equipment like a charging station. State and city both 10%.

The council supported its higher level at the conduit level.

You “don’t have to tear up sidewalks for stuff like that,” Deets said.

Moriwaki agreed. “Conduit is a hollow piece of tube that someday you might put a wire through. It’s not a real burden. It’s not a major problem for construction.”

Schneider wants city staff to come back with ideas for changes so there aren’t “unintended consequences” like the ones Helpline House suggested.