By Ramsey Cox
Congress has approved legislation that would allow the Architect of the Capitol to construct battery-recharging stations for electric cars in congressional parking areas.
The bill introduced by Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) requires that construction be at no net cost to the government but says the Architect of the Capitol could construct, operate and maintain battery-recharging stations in House and Senate parking lots. Users would pay a fee, which would eventually pay for the installation and maintenance of the stations.
The bill passed in the Senate on Thursday by unanimous consent, after passing in the House earlier that day. It now heads to President Obama's desk for his signature.
"I am extremely pleased that we have taken this important step toward establishing charging stations in the Capitol," Kildee said. "This bill will make owning electric vehicles more accessible for consumers and encourages others to install charging stations."
Electric cars have increased in popularity in recent years, but drivers face challenges because there are few recharging stations. Sales of electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Ford's Focus Electric have fallen recently, while Chevrolet has sold more of its Volt cars this summer.
H.R.1402 would allow members of Congress, and anyone authorized to park on Capitol grounds, to use the recharging stations.
The Senate companion bill, S. 739, introduced by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), had bipartisan support. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Debbie Stabenow (R-Mich.) co-sponsored the bill.
It's no coincidence that Michigan lawmakers introduced the legislation -- Detroit automakers have been making recent strides in electric car manufacturing, such as the Chevy Volt.
"These cars are helping reenergize the domestic auto industry, helping our local economies in Michigan and throughout our nation," Kildee said. "I am committed to the strength of the domestic auto industry, and electric cars are a critical part of the future of American auto manufacturing."