By Fran Spielman

Readying Chicago for electric vehicles to reduce air pollution may seem like a relatively mundane concern when everyday life is grinding to a halt to mitigate the threat of the coronavirus.

But Chicago aldermen proved Monday they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

The City Council’s Zoning Committee approved an ordinance requiring all new commercial buildings with 30 or more parking spaces and new residential buildings with five or more units to have at least 20 percent of their parking spaces “Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment-Ready.”

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), chief sponsor of the ordinance, noted that having parking spots “ready” for electric-vehicle equipment is a “more specific requirement” than just mandating that spots be “capable” of handling that equipment; the less-stringent rule had been included in a watered-down ordinance Reilly pushed through the City Council last fall.

The new ordinance guarantees “more of the infrastructure work is done at the front-end,” the alderman said. “It’s six times more expensive to retrofit a building than it is to install this on the front end.”

Reilly noted electric vehicle sales are increasing rapidly, with some industry analysts predicting 55 percent of all new car sales will be electric vehicles by 2040.

“They’re predicting that 15 percent of Americans will purchase an EV as their next vehicle. And in six years, the cost of an EV is projected to equal the cost of a fossil fuel vehicle,” Reilly said.

Reilly thanked the Lightfoot administration for working with him and his co-sponsor, Ald. Matt Martin (47th), to “come up with a generation 2.0 of the electric vehicle ordinance” approved by the City Council just a few months ago.

The effective date has been pushed back — from July 31 to Oct.31 — to provide “more flexibility for the development community,” he said.

“This is a progressive ordinance that would land the city of Chicago at the top of all cities in the nation in terms of planning for the future of electric vehicles,” Reilly said.

“It’s coming whether you like it or not. And the great news is that it’s a tremendous benefit for the environment and weans us off our dependence on fossil fuels, which is good public policy both locally and internationally.”

David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, couldn’t agree more.

“This is smart, progressive policy that will make Chicago a leader on transportation electrification issues,” Kolata said.

“It will save consumers money. It will be good for the environment.”