Lynnwood catching up on electric-car charger rules

LYNNWOOD – Anyone living in Lynnwood who had electric-vehicle charging equipment installed in their garage the past few years did so not quite legally.

The same goes for the charging stations installed at two Walgreens stores on Highway 99.

It’s not that the equipment or stations were illegal, explicitly. It’s just that Lynnwood had not met its obligation under state law to have regulations in place by July 1, 2010, to specifically allow charging stations for electric cars.

Now, the city is getting around to it. An ordinance has been drafted and is expected to go to the City Council in March for a hearing and possible approval, planner Gloria Rivera said.

“We were just short-staffed at the time,” she said. “We finally in the last year or so have gotten our staff so we have time to work on this.”

The ordinance would allow people to install level 1 and level 2 chargers at home. A level 1 charger, which carries about 110 volts, charges a car from empty to full in eight to 10 hours. A level 2 charger, approximately 220 volts, charges a car in four to six hours. Electric-car manufacturers usually provide home chargers to customers as part of the deal.

Most public charging stations are level 2 but faster, more powerful level 3 chargers are becoming more common. At 440 volts or more, a level 3 station can fully charge a car in 30 minutes. Under Lynnwood’s ordinance, these would be allowed in commercial, industrial, public and mixed-use areas.

The network of public electric-vehicle chargers is growing steadily. Some have been installed by the state along I-5 and U.S. 2, including in Sultan, and by some local governments in parking areas. Private companies have built stations at shopping destinations, such as those at Walgreens stores at 16824 and 20725 Highway 99 in Lynnwood.

Others are located nearby, just outside the city limits at the Fred Meyer store at 164th Street SW and Alderwood Mall Parkway, at the Swedish Edmonds medical complex and the Mountlake Terrace park-and-ride lot.

This ordinance is a good start, Lynnwood City Councilwoman Ruth Ross said, but she’d like to see the city make more of a commitment to the technology.

This could involve requiring stations to be included in public projects, similar to public art, she said. Incentives also could be offered to private groups to pay for stations on their own.

These provisions won’t happen in this ordinance because it’s already been written but could be added in the future, said Ross, who was elected to the council in November.

“We should think about encouraging what we would like to see instead of discouraging what we don’t want,” she said. “I’m hoping that will be part of what we try to do.”

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; bsheets@heraldnet.com.

For more information about electric-car charging station locations, visit the U.S. Department of Energy site at http://tinyurl.com/avnc9ac.

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