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Electric Mobility Infrastructure Planning for Urban Areas

Close-up of a charging cable plugged into the side of an electric vehicle. In the background is a city skyline with partially lit skyscrapers under a daytime sky.

This section describes best practices for planning electric mobility infrastructure, emphasizing key issues that often arise in urban areas. Many of these issues are based on the challenges identified in Benefits and Challenges of Urban Mobility Electrification.

In addition, electric mobility infrastructure planning in urban areas significantly differs from planning in rural areas. For example, many EV drivers in urban areas may not have access to home charging to meet their day-to-day charging needs. Therefore, enhancing public charging infrastructure to support those without at-home chargers, such as through the convenient location of DCFC stations at locations with other amenities, may be a higher priority among urban communities.

To support electric mobility infrastructure planning in urban areas, this section walks through a project planning checklist and identifies specific resources to support the planning process.

For a list of planning tools and resources, see Resources for Electric Mobility Infrastructure Planning.

Guiding Principles for Planning and Implementation

As electric mobility technology evolves, so does the process for electric mobility 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 electric mobility planning process:

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

The needs and goals for each project and region will vary greatly. In an urban area, different neighborhoods in the city and the suburbs will vary in terms of prevalence of multifamily housing, car ownership, and non-residential visitors, which will affect charging demand. The investment required for some 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 may be enough to mitigate range anxiety for visitors or offer residents an overnight charging option.

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 electric mobility project.

Coordinate early and often with key stakeholders.

Stakeholder engagement is a crucial component of successful transportation infrastructure projects. For electric mobility infrastructure specifically, the local electric utility can provide essential information and technical support throughout the life of a project, from site selection to final installation. Additionally, charger manufacturers, charging networks, and installers often offer a wealth of technical expertise and vital connections to utilities and other stakeholders. Manufacturers and dealers of the vehicles being considered can provide feedback on any infrastructure considerations specific to a particular vehicle (for example, electric school buses that only use DC fast charging). Early coordination with entities considering electric fleets, such as transit agencies, can help facilitate colocation 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. 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 planners, owners, and operators do not always align with the needs of the 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 charging 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. 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 “dig once” and lay electrical conduit for electric mobility charging (and any other activity requiring electrical service) at one time instead of cutting concrete multiple times during future projects. Ensuring site locations do not preclude future investments in priority corridors for multimodal travel can also help mitigate future costs.


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