Planners & Municipalities

Although gasoline-powered vehicles will be around for many years, a shift in the transportation industry toward electrification will change how people drive and fuel vehicles. Electric vehicles (EVs) can be very beneficial to communities and their residents. Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, EVs are quiet, emit no air pollution, and do not require imported fuel that must be transported with the risk of spills or leaks. 

To enjoy these benefits and support residents who make the investment in cleaner cars, communities can promote the use of EVs by becoming EV-ready. Municipalities can prepare for EVs and the charging stations (also called electric vehicle supply equipment, or EVSE) that are used to charge them with the following best practices guides for amending local rules and regulations to be EV-friendly.

Learn the history

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy funded 16 EV Community Readiness Projects for public-private partnerships to collaborate on plans to deploy EVs. New York State was part of the Northeast Electric Vehicle NetworkLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. (NEVN) project, which developed best practice documents on site design, building and electrical codes, and local policymaking

In 2013, NYSERDA EVSE Workshops brought together local community planners, building code officials, electrical installers, and electrical inspectors to learn about and discuss their role in the widespread rollout of EVs throughout New York State. Two nationwide projects, The EV Project and ChargePoint America, each have had more than 3 years of experience with the electric vehicle supply equipment planning and use process. More resources for planners and municipalities are listed under Resources.

Understand EVs and charging equipment suitable for different public settings

Understanding which level and how many charging stations are feasible for different settings based on expected EV use is critical. The type and number of EVs in a community will help shape how many and what kind of charging station an EV owner might need. The different types of charging stations will charge EV batteries at different rates. The type of charging station at each site should correspond with the amount of time a vehicle might be parked there while the driver is shopping, working, or enjoying entertainment.

As a municipality, zoning laws must permit the installation of each charging station type in an appropriate setting. The Planning Policy Tool Guide [PDF]  presents additional opportunities to encourage charging station use through zoning ordinances. For more in-depth information, read PEV Deployment in the Northeast – Literature Review [PDF] and Assessment of Current EVSE & EV Deployment [PDF], which analyze how the public has been adopting these different EV technologies. 

Use municipal codes and permitting practices to encourage use of charging equipment

Simple and consistent residential charging station permitting processes can make operating an EV much easier for community residents and visitors. Current national building and electrical codes neither inhibit nor facilitate the implementation of charging stations. But at a municipal level, the adoption of certain provisions in local codes has successfully encouraged EV-readiness in some jurisdictions.

EV Ready Codes for the Built Environment [PDF] provides current codes for charging stations and what code provisions could be incorporated into local code to encourage a basic or advanced level of EV-readiness.

How charging station installation work is classified within a jurisdiction can impact the time and cost of the permitting process. Permit Process Streamlining [PDF] reviews best practices for charging station permitting and presents sample application forms.

Zoning and parking ordinances have a wide impact on how and where public charging stations are installed and used. Zoning rules can help determine what types of land uses are appropriate for AC Level 1, AC Level 2, and DC fast charging stations and how they should be sited. Parking rules dictate who is allowed to park in parking spaces adjacent to charging stations, and whether cars parked there illegally can be fined or towed.

Examples of zoning and parking policies from across the country can be found in the Planning Policy Tool Guide [PDF], which also addresses local permitting practices and building codes. NYSERDA has funding available through its Cleaner, Greener Communities program (Phase 2, Category 1) for communities to amend their permitting, zoning, and parking ordinances so they are more EV-friendly, along with other opportunities available to support EV and charging station use.

Consider charging station hosts, EV drivers, and the general public when designing EV charging stations

The charging station host is responsible for the siting and design of public charging stations. However, the municipality can encourage compliance with industry best practices. Examples of best practices are outlined in Site Design for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations [PDF], a resource for local governments to share with charging station hosts during the installation planning phase. The guide raises key issues that site owners should consider, such as where to place charging stations within a parking lot and in relation to different types of parking spaces, how to account for the charging cord, which could create a tripping hazard if improperly placed, and how to accommodate disabled EV drivers. The EVSE Cluster Analysis [PDF] has good lessons for different types of locations considering installing charging stations. Follow best practices and learn from prior installations documented in case studies from around New York State. 

Enforce the availability of charging outlets for EVs

One of the most frustrating situations for an EV driver in need of a charge is to pull up to a charging station, only to find it is occupied by a conventional vehicle. As discussed in the Planning Policy Tool Guide [PDF], parking ordinances are often needed to enforce the concept of no parking in charging station spots except for EVs that are charging.

Another key element to addressing this issue is encouraging the proper use of signage at charging station spaces. The EVSE Signage Overview [PDF] outlines industry accepted and Department of Transportation-authorized signage, along with where to properly place signage so it is obvious to drivers. This signage makes it easier for EV drivers to find chargers and for non-EV drivers to understand that the spaces are reserved for EVs.

Incorporate EV charging stations into transportation planning discussions

To successfully prepare a municipality and region for further transportation electrification, this topic should be addressed in regional transportation planning meetings. The Planning Policy Tool Guide [PDF] outlines the importance of facilitating public-private partnerships and involving relevant stakeholders to develop community EV-readiness plans.

These stakeholders may include local utilities, workplaces, car dealerships, retailers, and EV drivers. Reviewing these resources and contacting a local Clean Cities Coalition are good first steps to finding ways a municipality can encourage EV adoption.