EV Infrastructure Project Planning Checklist
This section walks through a general checklist for electric vehicle infrastructure, or electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE), project planning. The below figure provides an overview of the checklist, with the following subsections discussing each checklist item in more detail.
Most of these checklist items apply to site-level planners, such as charging site hosts or other entities tasked with identifying a project’s size, cost, and plan for execution. However, some points—such as site selection and electric grid planning—are also relevant to community-level planners or corridor planners, especially since high-level planning may affect the set of candidate charging sites.
Also, as noted in the Guiding Principles for Planning and Implementation, the planning checklist is not necessarily a series of sequential steps. Instead, site-level planners may need to think about multiple issues simultaneously and possibly revisit individual checklist items throughout the planning process.
Overview: EVSE Project Planning Checklist
Determine the project’s scope, preliminary budget, timeline, and funding mechanism. Site-level planners may need to continually revise the project scale as they learn more about costs and other constraints specific to their site.
Doing More with EVSE: Complementary Technologies and Revenue Streams
In areas where the demand for light-duty vehicle (LDV) charging is too low to implement chargers exclusively for LDVs, consider charging infrastructure that can serve multiple purposes. For example, in the Cherokee Nation, located in Oklahoma, the Tribal government and regional Clean Cities coalition installed a solar canopy with free EV charging ports. Excess electricity generated by the canopy is used to augment grid power for the connected public buildings.
As another example, in an agricultural area, chargers could be used for EV farming equipment during the night and for LDVs for locals or tourists during the day. LDV charging could even bring in some revenue for the site operator.
Finding creative dual uses for EV infrastructure can make projects more feasible for rural areas.
In a top-down approach to planning, site-level planners work closely with a regional coalition to identify the best location for an EV charging station. Higher-level coordination can help integrate EV infrastructure planning with other community-level or corridor-level planning efforts, including goals to more equitably meet community needs.
For example, charging solutions like curbside charging—currently being piloted in urban areas like New York City and Kansas City—could serve multifamily housing residents or others in rural towns who may not have EV charging spaces at home.
For a deeper discussion on pursuing an equitable planning process, see Equity Considerations in Planning.
In addition, site-specific technical, economic, and regulatory factors will also need to be considered in initial site selection. Some of the planning steps presented later in this chapter may present obstacles that limit site selection, so it may be beneficial to conduct initial feasibility assessments based on these steps before committing to a specific site. For example, initial consultation with a local utility will help avoid particularly problematic or costly sites for an EVSE installation.
In a bottom-up approach, individual charging site hosts may already understand their unique site-specific constraints and choose to install charging stations on their own property. Still, site hosts could potentially benefit from partnering with utility coalitions and other stakeholders to achieve cost reductions (by leveraging other purchases of equipment and services) or to increase charging station utilization.
Identify project partners, such as electric utilities and local or regional coalitions. Working with the local utility is especially important for rural entities, given the limited electric grid capacity in many rural areas. Connect with the different regional utilities early in the planning process to learn about their different EV-related policies and programs and to understand any project constraints. Also, ensure that candidate installation sites fall within the utility’s service area.
Regional and local utility coalitions may also make valuable partners and can provide technical expertise in rural EV infrastructure projects. For example, the Electric Highway Coalition, a group of electric companies collectively serving more than half of U.S. States, aims to coordinate on EV charging solutions for major corridors. Individual utility members also support EV adoption within their respective service areas.
See the section on Partnership Opportunities for a more in-depth discussion of potential project partners.
Site-level planners need to determine who will own, operate, and maintain the EVSE and related electrical infrastructure. In general, either the utility or the utility customer can own and operate the EVSE. The utility customer can be the site host—a property owner or tenant—or a third party, such as a charging network company.
With third-party ownership and operation, the site host does not directly profit from the charging station revenue but may see an increased number of visitors. For example, visiting EV drivers may purchase items from a retailer’s business while charging their vehicles.
As illustrated in the below figure, there are also several possible ownership arrangements between a site host or third party and the utility:
- In the Traditional approach, the utility provides all equipment and wiring needed from the public power lines to the facility, including the meter, and the customer pays for, owns, and maintains all additional wiring needed and the EVSE. Most simple EVSE rebate programs follow this model. While this provides the site host or third party with full ownership and control over all premises wiring and EVSE, it also requires the most up-front investment.
- In the Make Ready model, the utility installs, owns, and maintains all the wiring needed up to the interface with the EVSE, including any service or meter upgrades needed. This is usually a good option for sites that do not want to (or are unable to) invest in premises wiring upgrades, as it allows the utility to absorb and recover those costs.
- In the EVSE Only model, the utility installs and owns only the EVSE. This provides a very low-cost option for both the site host and the utility when the site already has all or most of the needed wiring.
- In the Full Ownership model, transformers, meters, all wiring, and the EVSE itself are all owned and maintained by the utility. The utility would charge and collect EVSE user fees. For large investments like DCFC installations, this may be the preferred approach, as it will help ensure long-term operability and public access.
State regulations may impact how utilities own and manage EV charging infrastructure. These regulations vary widely (for example, see the definition of a public utility in Virginia) and therefore pose different considerations for potential business models and arrangements among site hosts, electric utilities, and charging station network operators.
AFDC’s Laws and Incentives database contains information on State-level utility regulations regarding how electricity is sold and potentially re-sold by EVSE operators.
In addition to regulations on who can sell power, States have different taxes and fees on electricity sold by EV charging hosts, which may affect the financial bottom line and discourage potential hosts. If a site-level planner wants to pursue a model involving utility ownership or operation of the EVSE, it may be best to inquire up front with the local utility about the available options.
For additional discussion on the pricing-related decisions for different business models, see the "Determine Pricing, Payment, and Access" checklist item under Operational Planning.
When determining the number and types of chargers needed at a location, it is important to assess:
- The expected total demand for charging (e.g., number of vehicles per day, types of vehicles). Does the expected demand support the overall business case for the installation?
- The expected demand profile. Will demand be steady throughout the day, or will there be peaks in demand at certain times of day?
Installations should be sized to handle peak demand periods. Site-level planners should consider how the installation size and project scope accommodates peak demand, as well as ways to limit those peaks (e.g., shifting charging demand from higher-demand times to less-busy times) (see the figure below).
Reducing EVSE Costs through Peak Shaving
The local utility may have additional recommendations on how to reduce peak demand. Options may include integrating energy storage technologies into the charging installation (e.g., on-site batteries) and utilizing “smart charging” strategies, such as automatically adjusting charging speeds and times to meet demand at a lower cost.
To ensure a project’s viability, it is important to identify regulatory requirements and necessary permits.
For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public spaces to accommodate people with disabilities. In addition to meeting general requirements for accessible parking spaces, ADA-compliant EVSE installations must provide unobstructed access to equipment with easy-to-use controls.
Many States have developed their own standards for accessible design, so site-level planners should consult their local governing bodies for additional guidance in ensuring ADA-compliant parking and charging stations.
Public entities must ensure that their services, programs, and activities are reasonably accessible, even in the absence of specific regulations or standards (per Fortyune v. City of Lomita).
For projects that receive Federal funding, it is also important to consider requirements to purchase certain products from American manufacturers (Buy America provisions), and requirements for contractors to pay locally prevailing wages on construction projects (Davis-Bacon and Related Acts). The Federal Funding Application Process section provides more information on considerations for projects receiving Federal grants and loans.
EVSE projects must also comply with applicable environmental laws and regulations. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires all Federal agencies to consider their actions’ impacts to the environment as part of their decision-making process. Compliance with NEPA and any other applicable environmental laws, such as the Endangered Species Act or the Clean Water Act, is required for EVSE projects that receive Federal funding or require Federal approval.
The Federal agency taking primary responsibility for the environmental review process will work with the applicant for Federal funding or approval to identify which environmental statutes and executive orders will apply to the project. Many EVSE projects will require only a minimal environmental review due to their small footprint and lack of potential to cause significant environmental impacts.
Environmental Statutes and Executive Orders contains brief overviews of the environmental statutes and executive orders that USDOT anticipates will most commonly apply to EVSE projects, though each project will be individually evaluated. Check with the partnering Federal agency for more detailed guidance on the environmental review process. (For example, see FHWA’s Environmental Review Toolkit and FTA’s Environmental Review Process webpage.)
Beyond Federal laws, regulations, and permitting, the project sponsor will also need to meet relevant State and local requirements. As specific requirements vary by community or even type of site, it is important to check with local officials to confirm all applicable requirements and to ensure compliance throughout the project’s lifespan.
As noted earlier, coordinating with the local utility can be beneficial throughout the life of a project, but this coordination becomes essential at this stage of the planning process. Project planners can coordinate either directly or through a coalition (for more information on the different types of utilities and how to engage with them, see the Utilities discussion).
Compared with urban areas, the grid infrastructure in rural areas is more likely to require upgrades to support charging needs. For example, sites with many Level 2 chargers are more likely to strain elements of the existing local grid than sites with a single Level 1 or Level 2 charger.
Electricity Supply Requirements
What ultimately determines the speed of EV charging is the electric power (measured in watts or kilowatts) delivered to the vehicle. Power is a function of voltage (in volts) of the electrical supply and the current (in amps) flowing through the circuit (Power = Voltage x Current).
However, the power delivered to a battery may be limited by internal components on each vehicle, so not all vehicles will be able to charge at the highest rate of the EVSE equipment. Furthermore, three-phase electricity supply is needed for DC fast charging, so a lack of access to three-phase power will limit options for some EVSE installations.
Also, lack of three-phase power may limit DC fast charging capabilities (see the figures at right and below). Unlike single-phase circuits which have a single “live” wire and a neutral wire, three-phase circuits have three live wires, each with its own alternating current signal, and are capable of delivering substantially more power to the charging system.
While the EVSE installer can make on-site modifications, any necessary electrical supply upgrades (e.g., higher-capacity supply wires, transformers) may need to involve the local electric utility. Coordinating with the utility early on is important to ensure that major infrastructure upgrades, such as the installation of substations, do not incur avoidable costs and project delays during the implementation process.
For more remote rural areas, installations using off-grid power sources may provide an appealing option for avoiding expensive grid upgrades. There are some emerging resources for planning installations with off-grid charging, through distributed (on-site) electricity generation and on-site energy storage. Some companies are pursuing large-scale EV charging using distributed renewable power (e.g., Envision Solar and EVgo). Solar-based solutions may be particularly effective in the rural West, where the natural potential for solar-power generation is strong.
There are also potential hybrid approaches that use both grid-power and off-grid power—for example, using batteries or generators to supplement grid power to meet peak-demands, which would enable higher-power charging without electricity infrastructure upgrades and could help avoid demand charges.
Other companies (e.g., Freewire) provide charging systems that fully integrate batteries with a site’s low-power electricity supply to provide fast charging in places where it may not otherwise be possible.
Furthermore, as discussed above in the "Assess EV Charging Needs" checklist item under Project Development and Scoping, options for advanced charging may also reduce the need for electric grid upgrades.
It is essential to coordinate with utilities early in the planning process to understand aspects of electricity pricing that may significantly impact the financial viability of an EVSE installation. This includes basic electricity pricing (e.g., different rates for residential and commercial customers) as well as demand charges and time-of-use rates.
Demand charges are extra fees that many utilities charge to commercial and industrial customers to help cover their costs of investing in infrastructure to meet peak demands. They are charged by utilities when a customer’s peak demand exceeds a certain threshold, usually in the 20 kW to 50 kW range. The fees, usually ranging from $3 to $40 per kW, are determined by the highest amount of power drawn during any interval (typically 15 minutes) during a billing period and are added to a customer’s monthly bill.
For example, if EVSE use on a site causes peak demands to exceed the utility’s threshold for just 15 minutes of a given month, the facility operator may be charged up to $2,000 extra for that month. Utilities may also vary their demand charges based on the season and time of day.
Success Story: Off-Peak Charging with Green Mountain Power
The electric utility Green Mountain Power (GMP) in Vermont offers EV charging customers different electricity rates (in dollars per kWh) for charging during peak versus off-peak hours. In addition, customers can choose from one of two pricing systems that incentivize off-peak charging.
GMP has also partnered with the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) on a workplace charging program in which GMP provides the Level 2 charger, installation, software, project management, and maintenance, all funded through a low-interest VEDA loan, which business customers pay off through an additional fixed charge (starting at $45 per month) on their monthly utility bills.
The use of DCFC chargers or the simultaneous use of several Level 2 chargers can increase a facility’s peak electricity demand and trigger expensive demand charges. These demand charges increase the price of individual charging sessions and deter drivers from using the EVSE.
While some utilities offer programs and other solutions to reduce the initial impacts of demand charges (see the utility case studies in the 2021 Western Governors’ Association report for example programs), these pricing factors could be especially impactful in rural areas, where initial EVSE utilization may be low, and small additional charges can significantly impact the business case for owning and operating EV infrastructure.
Beyond the commercial impacts, demand charges could also make EV charging prohibitively expensive to low-income populations and thus hinder equitable access to the energy, environmental, and economic benefits of EV ownership.
Time-of-use rates provide reduced electricity costs at certain times of the day to encourage EV charging when overall demand on the grid is low (e.g., at nighttime), helping the utility smooth out its overall demand profile.
Some entities (e.g., public agencies) may need to follow formal procurement processes or other guidelines to obtain the necessary equipment and services for EVSE installations. Importantly, these procurement rules or guidelines could affect other aspects of the planning process.
For example, the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) has developed model language for State EVSE grant and procurement contracts to establish a baseline for important aspects of EVSE operations, such as charging station access, uptime (or availability), pricing transparency, and payment options.
Additionally, many localities have the option of purchasing EVSE through established State contracts, which can provide savings over bidding per contract.
The timing of EVSE procurement may also be an important factor.
For example, in cases where fleets are transitioning to EVs, EVSE procurement should be done well in advance of vehicle procurement, to ensure that EVSE is installed and ready for use in advance of the transition.
The installing entity will need to decide if the stations will be networked or non-networked.
Networked chargers connect to the Internet or cellular service to collect payment by credit card or smart phone, transmit utilization data, including current charger availability, and support remote customer service and firmware updates. They also introduce a range of opportunities related to vehicle-to-grid integration (VGI), including unidirectional control from the grid to the vehicle (often referred to as “V1G”), which allows the grid operator to control the rate of charging to reduce demand peaks, and vehicle-to-grid capabilities (or “V2G”), which allow bi-directional communication and bi-directional flow of electricity between vehicles and the grid, allowing vehicles to provide additional grid services.
Non-networked chargers provide basic charging capabilities without an Internet connection or any advanced monitoring or payment capabilities. As a result, non-networked chargers must either collect payment through a different means (e.g., through an attendant or at a nearby establishment) or provide complimentary EV charging.
For remote areas, broadband or cellular access could present obstacles to installing networked stations (see the below figure for an example of the extent of cellular coverage). If lack of cellular or broadband availability prevents the installation of a networked station, and therefore a site host cannot monitor charging use and participate in demand response programs, the utility may be able to offer a special subscription rate to help the site hosts avoid unexpected and unwanted demand charges.
Equipment and network providers can fill important gaps in knowledge on EV charger types, needs, and capabilities. For equipment and network selection, resources such as the Go Electric Drive “EVSE Products, Charging Network and Service Providers” tool can help facilitate comparison between current choices on the market. (Alternatively, for equipment: https://pluginamerica.org/get-equipped/.)
The ENERGY STAR certified EVSE list helps with selecting the most energy-efficient models.
The California Energy Commission EV Charger Selection Guide provides side-by-side specification comparisons of available hardware, software, and payment system options and a product photo library.
An alternative approach for locating providers is to contact one of the main industry associations, such as Electric Drive Transportation Association, Plug-in America, or Zero Emission Transportation Association.
Information on EV charging demand, siting, and electrical capacity can inform which types of EV chargers are selected and how many to install. Refer to the section on Electric Vehicle Charging Speeds for information on available charger types, namely, Level 1, Level 2, and DCFC. When selecting a charger type, consider its voltages, resulting charging and vehicle dwell times, and estimated up-front and ongoing costs.
While local costs can vary significantly from the national average, a 2019 report by the International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that hardware and installation costs for networked Level 2 chargers is around $6,000 for a single-port pedestal capable of charging one vehicle and $11,000 for a dual-port pedestal that can charge two vehicles at once. Costs for non-networked chargers are significantly less at around $4,000 for a single-port and $8,000 for a dual-port charger. For DCFC units, typical costs range from $70,000 to $120,000. See the decision tree in the figure below for additional guidance in selecting a charger type.
As described in DOE’s 2015 EVSE cost report and in a 2019 report by RMI, site- and project-specific factors that may affect the cost estimate include the trenching distance to lay the electric conduit and local labor costs. Also, per-charger installation costs typically decrease significantly when additional chargers are installed on the same site and at the same time. Similarly, overall installation costs can be lower if a site completes all trenching for EVSE conduit at once, even if the charging units themselves aren’t planned for installation until a later date. An EVSE installer can perform a site assessment to provide more tailored cost estimates for the types of chargers that meet project needs.
Additionally, a thorough assessment of installation needs and costs should include any upgrades needed to on-site electrical wiring (which is in addition to upgrades that the utility may need to do on their side of the meter). This step should also include consulting with a certified electrical contractor. The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program provides a State-by-State listing of available certified contractors. States vary widely in terms of the availability of certified contractors. The equipment or network provider can also be a source of information for locating qualified EVSE installers.
While early estimates of O&M costs may not be very precise, they will be essential to overall financial planning and ensuring that the project scope and business model are viable. AFDC provides a detailed discussion of O&M costs, which includes the cost of electricity.
As discussed in the Utility Planning section, total spending on electricity depends on the utility’s pricing structure, demand charges, and time-of-use rates. DCFC stations require ongoing maintenance (e.g., general inspections, repairs, cleaning equipment, securely storing charging cables), and AFDC recommends that station owners plan for annual costs of $400 per charger.
Beyond the cost of electricity and maintenance, some EVSE operators may also pay a fee to the network company to facilitate or manage pricing, charger access, and data collection and analysis.
Success Story: Providing Free Public Charging in Colorado
Since 2013, the Colorado Energy Office and Regional Air Quality Council have jointly supported the installation of more than 1,000 EV charging stations across the State through the Charge Ahead Colorado grant program. Some early grant recipients like Eagle County and the Town of Carbondale installed Level 2 chargers and provided free public charging in their communities.
Eagle County, Colorado
In 2014, Eagle County installed one of its first public EV charging stations at the county office building in Eagle, Colorado. The Level 2 station is free to the public and serves EV drivers traveling along the I-70 and U.S. 6 corridors or visiting the restaurants and shops in downtown Eagle. In 2014, fully charging an EV cost around $1.50, which Eagle County estimated would increase the county’s electric bill by $500 per year. The project cost $8,700, of which $6,260 came from grant funds. Eagle County’s Facilities and Engineering departments helped complete the installation.
In 2013, the Town of Carbondale installed its first Level 2 charging station along parking spaces in front of the town hall. The project cost $6,050, of which more than $4,800 was reimbursed through grant funding. The town decided to initially provide free charging services, since enabling payment capabilities would cost more than just paying for the electricity while use was low. Since then, Carbondale has expanded to 16 charging stations, of which 15 are free Level 2 charging stations.
EVSE owners and operators will have to decide among a range of options for pricing (e.g., per kWh, per unit time); payment (e.g., at the charging unit, over the phone, at a nearby establishment); and access (membership-based or open access).
For example, as illustrated by Shift2Electric’s metering and payment table, employers offering workplace EV charging should think about whether or how to request payment for charger use and how to bill for use. Employers should also consider whether to allow the public to access their chargers.
The possible pricing models depend on who owns and operates the EV chargers. Generally, site hosts who own and operate their own EV chargers can set their own prices. Some site hosts may opt to offer free charging to EV drivers. Free charging is more common for Level 1 and Level 2 chargers, which cost less to own and operate than DC fast chargers.
For example, hotels or workplaces may wish to provide Level 1 or Level 2 EV charging as a complimentary service to their customers or employees.
Site hosts can alternatively decide to require payment from EV charging customers. Lower prices could attract customers while still offsetting electricity costs, including demand charges incurred through DC fast charging. Higher prices, on the other hand, could help the site host make direct profit from EV charging.
When setting prices, keep in mind that potential customers may be able to use mobile apps to locate other nearby networked chargers and to review ratings and comments from other customers.
Note that for non-networked chargers, which do not have payment collection capabilities, site hosts can alternatively collect fees through radio-frequency identification (RFID) capabilities, mobile applications, or in-person payments, such as with an attendant or at a nearby establishment.
For chargers owned by network companies, particularly DCFC, different network companies adopt different pricing models.
As described in Pennsylvania’s AFC Deployment Planning Report, some companies (e.g., Blink) adopt a hybrid pricing model in which the site host and partner network agree to split the costs and revenues.
In another hybrid approach with a subscription-based agreement (e.g., as offered by ChargePoint, Greenlots, and Blink), the site host may pay an annual fee to the network company, which installs and maintains the chargers while the site host operates and collects revenue from the EV chargers.
When setting prices, note that States have differing regulations. Some States classify charging station operators as public utilities, which can affect how they are allowed to charge for usage.
Station and Wayfinding Signage
Station and wayfinding signage help make EV users aware of available charging stations. Station signage, painted parking spots, and other ways to differentiate the charging area improve station visibility. Station signage also helps communicate station policies such as vehicle restrictions and charging time limits. Wayfinding signage, on the other hand, assists EV users in navigating to charging stations from other locations, such as freeway exits. For stations located along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors, FHWA has released guidance on sign design and installation. Contact the State DOT and FHWA division office to confirm current requirements on highway signage.
Additional factors to consider in planning include station visibility, signage, and security. For example, adequate on-site lighting makes charging stations safer and more accessible for users.
Rural entities can also promote available charging services by adding station data to EVSE search tools, including the AFDC Station Locator, and may want to consider the availability of station information and policies in languages other than English.
While some of these factors are not likely to present a major hurdle to project implementation, it is a good idea to identify any additional needs early and factor them into the overall planning process.