Project Lessons: Curbside EV Charging
The U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Office has funded curbside and streetlights electric vehicle (EV) charging projects. Lessons learned from these funded projects can highlight opportunities for greater project efficiency and success. Others embarking on similar projects can take into account the key considerations summarized below, which discuss best practices for engaging stakeholders, strategies for improving the equitable distribution of project benefits, site selection factors, and permitting/policy elements that could impact the project.
- Public right-of-way charging refers to charging in a place owned by a government entity. Examples include highway, street, alley, and sidewalks.
- Curbside charging refers to charging on the side of a road or sidewalk.
- Streetlight/pole charging refers to charging on the side of a road or sidewalk where the charger is attached to a streetlight or other type of pole.
Recent analysis from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that 25% of individuals will not have a place to charge their vehicles at home. To expand EV adoption, it is necessary to find and demonstrate solutions that enable those without home charging to charge their vehicle. Curbside charging, including chargers attached to streetlights or other poles, seeks to fill this gap by increasing the locations where consumers can charge their vehicles. Mounting EV chargers to existing poles can save on installation costs compared with ground-mounted chargers.
Past Funded Projects
- American Lung Association: EV Community Partner – mix applications (multifamily housing and electric car share)
- Metropolitan Energy Center: Streetlight Charging in Kansas City Right-of-Way
- University of North Carolina Charlotte: Curbside-Charging for Electric Vehicles for Planned Urban Growth
This presents some key considerations for curbside EV charging projects divided into several topics. See the Curbside EV Charging Projects table for more details on project considerations.
- EV charging equipment: at the start of the project, determine who will own, insure, and be responsible for operations and maintenance and for what length of time. Examples include the utility, municipality, site host, or charging station network.
- The ability to obtain liability insurance may determine which organizations can own EV chargers or vehicles.
- Engaging utilities at the start of the project is essential as they can provide valuable input on the project parameters and site selection.
Local Government Stakeholders
- It will likely be necessary to include multiple municipal departments/offices to enable decision making.
- Departments and offices to consider include city council, building, forestry/parks, parking, permitting, planning, public transit, sewer, traffic, and water.
- Community engagement should begin during the project development phase, prior to site selection, and should continue throughout project implementation and after deployment.
- Community members have deep knowledge of their area's history and needs. Build relationships with community-based organizations prior to the grant application process. When a grant application is issued, ask if they would like to be a partner to collaboratively develop the project.
- Compensating community organizations and community members for their time and input is highly recommended. It is also a best practice to provide childcare and ensure there are efficient and affordable transportations options for attendees.
- Consider how the time, location, language, and method of communication with community organizations affects people's ability to effectively engage.
- Provide community members with opportunities to recommend and reject sites.
- Hire local contractors to inform and/or lead community engagement, as they will have knowledge and connections to community organizations.
- When selecting sites, work with nearby building owners and homeowners.
- Equity considerations need to be included at the start of the project to help ensure community needs are met. To better understand equity considerations, consult Table 1: An Approach to Include Equity and Energy Justice Consideration in Decision Making in "Energy Justice: Key Concepts and Metrics Relevant to EERE Transportation Projects."
- Collaborate with community partners (including community members) to identify what equity means for this project, what equity considerations will be incorporated, and criteria for equitable site selection.
- To inform site selection with equity considerations in mind, the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation provides a list of equity and climate impact tools including Justice40 mapping, environmental justice screening, and energy equity analysis.
- Projects found that federal equity data may not be sufficient—work with local organizations and community members to account for local demographics and the uneven distribution of social, economic, and institutional benefits and burdens.
- Incorporate knowledge gained through community members' lived experiences. Ask local residents how they use the spaces in their communities instead of relying on maps or other tools. As an example, a map may identify an open space as a park, but community members might understand that space as a field without amenities and therefore does not use this as public space.
- Parking regulations dictate site selection and will eliminate many potential sites.
- Work with local parking regulation entity to obtain data on parking restrictions (including time limitations, paid/meter spots, and limitations on overnight parking).
- Determine if changes can be made to parking restrictions to enable ideal sites.
- Work with appropriate local contacts to identify future transportation plans (road work, addition of bike/bus lanes, and other activities that could eliminate potential sites.
Streetlights and Poles
- Streetlight poles represent an opportunity to attach EV chargers for potentially lower cost than curbside charging. Other pole types, such as those owned by utilities and phone companies, also represent an opportunity to use existing infrastructure.
- A general assumption made that existing streetlights would have sufficient power to support Level 2 charging and that the switch to LED streetlights would make sufficient power available. The ability of existing streetlights to support Level 2 charging will vary based on location.
- Streetlights are generally owned by cities or utilities. Find out early in the project what the voltage is to streetlights in the selected area and if these locations have power supply during daylight hours. Streetlights are most commonly 120V, which would require additional power to support Level 2 charging equipment.
- Additional power supply to the streetlight pole may be necessary to enable EV charging equipment. Streetlights with overhead power are lower cost and easier to permit.
- Existing models and tools are available to help identify potential locations for EV charging equipment. This combined with community input can reduce the number of potential sites prior to physical site visits.
- Overlay parking data with streetlight location data to narrow down potential sites.
- Use street view mapping programs when available, to further refine site selection prior to in person site evaluations.
- Consider other uses and competition for pole space from telecommunications, internet, cameras, and other uses.
- In person site evaluations should consider EV charging equipment orientation, traffic, safety, narrow streets/sidewalks, cell phone signal strength, documentation of nearby businesses and amenities.
- Consider a pilot deployment first to identify barriers and permitting processes unique to the project location. The pilot could allow for more efficient deployment.
- Identify who has jurisdiction over curbside permitting and excavation. Determine how to work with the jurisdiction to streamline curbside EV charger permitting.
- Determine how ADA accessibility impacts permitting for curbside EV chargers and who would be responsible for costs for curb cuts and ramps.
- Determine EV charger signage requirements.
- World Resource Institute: "Pole Mounted Electric Vehicle Charging Preliminary Guidance"
- Twin Cities Electric Vehicle Mobility Network: Community Engagement and Outreach
- U.S. Access Board: Design Recommendations for Accessible Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
- EV Charging Justice40 Map
- Energy Zones Mapping Tool (EZMT)
- Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Projection Tool (EVI-Pro) Lite
- New York State Department of Transportation: "Curb Enthusiasm Deployment Guide for On-Street Electric Vehicle Charging"
- Virginia Clean Cities: Curbside Charging – A Model Ordinance for Cities and Counties
Identify who will own the EV charging equipment. Liability insurance and the ability of an organization to obtain it for EV charging equipment was a challenge in multiple projects and slowed deployment.
Establish if there are limitations on quantity of EV charging equipment an organization can own (this may be the case for utility ownership who could be limited in capital assets by their state regulator).
Identify who will own vehicles if they are part of the project. In some projects vehicles were leased due to complex ownership issues and the ability to obtain insurance.
At the start of the project, establish the ability of the proposed EV charging equipment owner to obtain liability insurance. If car share or vehicles are included in the program, establish that the organization responsible for the vehicles can insure them. Also identify who is responsible for liability insurance during installation if it is not the owner.
If possible, include the utility as a project partner. Engage the utility at the start of project planning with particular focus on where EV charging installations are possible. Work with the utility to identify areas where installations may be less costly due to upgraded infrastructure or excess capacity.
|EV Charger Operations and Maintenance||
Identify who is responsible for operations and maintenance and for how long. Is the owner of the EV charging equipment also the owner of the software/payment system? Clearly define organizations roles and responsibilities.
Define roles and responsibilities. The owner of the hardware and software/payment system may not be the same entity.
Engage community organizations prior to the grant application process to see how they want to be involved. Allow the organizations to determine how they fit into the project and how it aligns with their missions and goals.
Compensate community organizations for their time and expertise. It is also a best practice to provide childcare and ensure there are efficient and affordable transportations options for attendees.
Engage organizations involved throughout the life of the project by sharing data results and giving them an equitable voice in ongoing decision making. Prioritize input from communities and organizations most impacted by site locations of EVs and charging equipment.
Create a useful and accessible project webpage for the community, where project information is presented in clear, accessible, and transparent content provided in multiple languages that meet community needs. Develop a broad stakeholder list. Conduct listening sessions at times convenient for the greatest amount of participation in a location that allows for efficient and affordable transportation and the option of childcare. Communicate site selection criteria and how the project defines and prioritizes underserved communities. If the need arises, hire a local contractor for any community engagement work rather than organizations outside of the community.
Incorporating equity at the start of the project is easier and more beneficial for all parties. Select areas of priority based on underserved communities rather than points of interest.
Consider more than federal data input on underserved communities by engaging the local community. Identify factors that contribute to inequity when modeling site selection. Curbside parking is not generally equitably distributed in a city.
Engage with local government agency responsible for establishing parking regulations. Many sites will be eliminated from consideration due to parking policies. Ask for their input on areas where curbside charging makes sense.
Obtain parking data inclusive of no parking zones, metered areas, time limits and their hours, if overnight parking is allowed. Consider if time limitations enable adequate charging (for example 2 hours is enough for DC fast charging, consider if it is sufficient to meet community needs for Level 2).
Work with the local government agency to determine if it is possible to change parking restrictions for sites suggested by community engagement, the utility, or other factors that make a particular site ideal.
Work with local municipality contacts to identify transportation infrastructure plans such as future road work, bike lanes, light rail trains, dedicated bus lanes, and other activities that could impact EV charging locations.
Consider if alternatives to curbside parking are needed to serve a wider market. For example, curbside parking is less common in many communities in the Midwest and South. Some municipalities may have more pull-in parking. One project found that lower income residents lived outside of the city in areas where curbside parking was uncommon.
A general assumption was made that streetlights presented an opportunity to use existing infrastructure. Unfortunately, power supply to streetlights, including those upgraded to LED, may not be sufficient to support Level 2 EV charging.
Streetlight and other poles represent an opportunity to attach EV charging equipment and add power supply for lower cost than curbside charging.
Identify who owns the streetlights. Ask for data on streetlight locations, voltage, if power is supplied during daylight hours, if power is supplied overhead or underground, and structural capability of the pole to support charging equipment.
Identify impacts to streetlight owner if charging equipment is installed. In one municipality, the utility expressed concern with attaching EV charging equipment to their streetlight poles due to the requirement to develop formal training for all lineman as well as concerns on impacts of charging equipment on restoring power and if the utility would have to extend use of streetlight poles for other uses/purposes.
Analyze parking data, streetlight locations (determine if streetlights are on same side of street where parking is allowed), safety, demographic, equity, location of existing EV charging equipment, and related data layers into a model or GIS tool can help reduce staff time in down selecting site locations to meet project goals.
Assess the difficulty of installation – is power source overhead or underground, what is the distance to the power source, what type of excavation is needed, what type of surface is there, and how dense are other utilities. For streetlights without power during the day, estimate costs to enable daylight power to determine viability of these locations. Determine if load analysis is needed for any poles
Once sites are down selected based on modeling and mapping, projects generally used street view mapping to visualize the site. Site visits may be necessary to make further determinations about suitability. Cell phone signal strength is important for users to activate and pay. Site visit can help determine orientation of EV charging equipment. Identify any issues in distance of streetlight from curbside. Assess safety-for example how narrow are sidewalks and streets. Record nearby businesses. Record nearby amenities.
Develop a communication plan to inform nearby residence and businesses of the project and its impacts.
One project used the following parameters for site selection: 80 to 100 ft of uninterrupted curb; 30 ft from stop signs; 10 ft from fire hydrants; 5 ft from driveways. They also sought two lane roads and wide sidewalks.
One project found that points of interest like plazas and parks had barriers that made them less ideal, such as fences or excavation costs exceeding $100,000. These larger sites may benefit from an earlier site visit on to determine viability.
|Permitting, Zoning, and Policy||
Best practices needed to coordinate efficiently with multiple municipal departments and decision makers to enable curbside EV charging equipment. Engage with municipal forestry/parks, water, sewer, planning, public transit, traffic, and transportation offices.
Identify who has jurisdiction over curbside permitting.
Identify the permitting process for curbside EV charging including excavation. Determine if it is regular commercial or an alternate process. Is there an opportunity to streamline permitting for multiple sites.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Determine how ADA accessibility impacts siting and permitting for curbside EV charging equipment. Consider accessibility for large-scale deployment of curbside EV charging equipment. Identify who is responsible for costs for curb cuts and ramps.
Identify if the municipality or any other entities determine signage required or allowed to identify the EV charging equipment. Determine who is responsible for funding signage.
Identify local policies that impact curbside EV chargers such as regulations on advertisements and signage.