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EV Infrastructure Planning for Rural Areas

This section describes best practices for planning EV infrastructure, emphasizing key issues that often arise in rural areas. Many of these issues are based on the challenges identified in Benefits and Challenges of Rural Vehicle Electrification. In addition, EV infrastructure planning in rural areas significantly differs from planning in urban areas. For example, many EV drivers in rural areas will likely have access to home charging to meet their day-to-day charging needs. Therefore, enhancing public charging infrastructure to support longer trips, such as through DCFC stations along highways, may be a higher priority among rural communities. Local businesses and institutions, as well as community sites can also serve as a secondary priority for a rural community’s local economy and EV adoption.

To support EV infrastructure planning in rural areas, this section walks through a project planning checklist and identifies specific resources to support the planning process. For a complete list of planning tools and resources, see Resources for EV Infrastructure Planning.

Guiding Principles for Planning and Implementation

Guiding Principles for EV Planning and Implementation: There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Many planning processes may be executed in parallel rather than strictly sequentially. Coordinate early and often with key stakeholders. Stakeholders may have different needs and perspectives. Invest in planning and build for flexibility. As EV-related technology evolves, so does the process for EV infrastructure planning and implementation. Furthermore, each region, community, and charging site host faces unique needs and constraints. Therefore, the following guiding principles—rather than hard-and-fast rules—can help site hosts and other stakeholders find their own (potentially unique) path through the EV planning and implementation process:

There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

The needs and goals for each project and region will vary greatly. This is especially true in rural areas, which can have extreme variation in factors like charging demand and infrastructure readiness. The investment required for some EV charging installations can be complicated, but not every installation needs to be large, costly, or overly complex. For instance, even a few Level 2 public chargers can be enough to mitigate range anxiety for visitors and residents of a rural area at a low cost.

Many planning processes may be executed in parallel rather than strictly sequential order.

The path to project completion is often not linear. Planners and stakeholders may gain new information throughout the many stages of a project and may need to revisit and revise earlier steps of the process. For example, project budgets often need to be revised based on information gathered in the site-selection process. Parallel execution of some planning processes may also facilitate faster completion of an EV infrastructure project.

Coordinate early and often with key stakeholders.

Stakeholder engagement is a crucial component of successful transportation infrastructure projects. For EV infrastructure specifically, the local or Tribal electric utility can provide essential information and technical support throughout the life of a project, from site-selection to final installation. Additionally, EV charger manufacturers, charging networks, and installers often offer a wealth of technical expertise and vital connections to utilities and other stakeholders. Early coordination with entities considering electric fleets, such as transit agencies, can help facilitate co-location or shared use of charging infrastructure. Depending on the region, technical assistance from a local Clean Cities coalition may also be available to provide a manufacturer-independent technology overview and assistance in making the best use of planning tools. This kind of coordination is important in rural areas, where technical information may be in short supply and where it may be challenging to connect with the right stakeholders. Good technical partners will often have more up-to-date information than what’s available online.  

See Partnership Opportunities for more in-depth discussion of potential partners.

Stakeholders may have different needs and perspectives.

The goals of EV infrastructure planners, owners, and operators do not always align with the needs of the rural communities that host the installations. It is important to consider the diverse populations impacted by infrastructure projects, engage these community members in the planning process, and address their needs and concerns in project siting and design. See the Equity Considerations in Planning section for guidance and resources to help ensure that a project’s benefits and costs are fairly distributed throughout the community.

Invest in planning and build for flexibility.

Large, complex EV infrastructure installations may require expensive upgrades to the site’s electrical service or even to the nearby power grid and extensive site preparation. To avoid the need for even more upgrades in the future, consider both the current charging needs and expected future needs and ensure that planning is done in a careful and coordinated fashion. Designing infrastructure to accommodate future growth in demand—for example, through modular charging stations that allow for incremental increases in power—may be worth the extra installation costs. This approach can also reduce site preparation costs, as it may be cheaper and easier in the long run to lay electrical conduit for all potential EVSE at once instead of cutting concrete multiple times during future projects.

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