House Begins Implementing Electric Car Recharging Mandate

Posted March 8, 2013 at 4:20pm

Per legislation passed last August, the Architect of the Capitol is required to accommodate electric car owners who work on Capitol Hill and want to charge their vehicles in the Senate and House garages while at work.

Almost four months after setting up such a system on the Senate side, the AOC is now setting up parts of House garages where drivers can recharge their electric cars.

According to a letter obtained by CQ Roll Call, House Office Buildings Superintendent William M. Weidemeyer announced Thursday that interested members of the congressional community could pay $27 a month, or a daily fee of $8, to charge their battery-operated vehicles on Capitol grounds.

The fees, Weidemeyer said, are intended to cover the cost of power, “assum[ing] an electric vehicle will typically charge for 8.5 hours per day, which represents a 20-mile commute.”

The money also will help compensate the implementation of the program. Weidemeyer’s letter estimates the cost of implementation will be $1,000, a sum that will be paid back over 10 years and which assumes four participants.

“As we implement this program, we will investigate appropriate and cost-effective metering technologies that can be utilized and will coordinate with our committee staff accordingly,” Weidemeyer continued in the letter. “Our plan was chosen to minimize parking assignment logistics, initial capital construction cost, and ensure program implementation results in no cost to the taxpayer.”

AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said the House and Senate would utilize parking spaces throughout the garages that are in close proximity to electrical outlets.

This was at one time identified as the cheaper option, allowing electric car drivers to plug in their vehicles with their own extension cords, much like the way most people charge their cell phones.

For both chambers, however, it will cost users money to take advantage of the electric car recharging program, for lawmakers and congressional staff alike. Though the Senate-side fees are unknown, it’s likely they will be modeled after the House plan.

Cost considerations are crucial because the fear that this initiative could cost taxpayers money almost derailed the legislation in the Senate.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) objected to quick consideration of the legislation for almost a month on the grounds that it was a waste of money.

“Sen. McCain objected to [considering] the measure by unanimous consent because there’s no demonstrated need for spending thousands of dollars to install electric car charging stations,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said at the time. “This is an expensive perk for senators not enjoyed by average Americans.

“If the measure is such a priority, the majority leader can schedule floor time on it whenever he sees fit, allowing the Senate to debate and vote on it in the light of day,” Rogers said.

Ultimately, McCain relented, in part because of the guarantee that the AOC would closely monitor the program to ensure there were no extraneous costs except for those billed to participants.

Meanwhile, industry groups such as the American Public Gas Association and Natural Gas Vehicles for America argued the measures could send a message that Congress favors one fuel source over another.

In the end, they also decided there were bigger battles to wage on Capitol Hill than whether a handful of members wanted to drive electric vehicles.

The House, meanwhile, passed its bill with ease.

“I am glad I was able to help facilitate House passage of these bills accommodating those with electric vehicles at no cost to taxpayers,” said then-Rep. Daniel E. Lungren, R-Calif., at that time the chairman of the Committee on House Administration. “I believe that it is important to encourage innovation that reduces harmful emissions.”