Electric transportation is no longer a distant dream; industry trends suggest that the mass adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is imminent. In 2023, EV sales neared 10% of all new car sales in the United States and represented nearly a quarter of all new vehicles sold in the nation’s biggest auto market, California. The demand for electrified transportation is here.
The Permitting Problem
Unfortunately, the issue is more complicated than just getting vehicles on the road. Charging infrastructure developers across the country have encountered a roadblock in the form of convoluted permitting processes and outdated building codes. These bureaucratic barriers create confusion, delaying or preventing the installation of charging – even in areas where such projects would be both useful and profitable.
With the wheels of federal funding in motion through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), now is the moment for states and municipalities to align their policies with the pressing need for EV infrastructure. These funds provide a unique opportunity to invest in building out the charging network that will power our electric future, but any amount of funding is useless if outdated regulations and needlessly complex permitting processes prevent charging installation projects before they even begin. Cities and states have an opportunity to capitalize on this once-in-a-generation investment, but to do so, they must help developers navigate the permitting process and comply with building codes.
Most city and state officials aren’t experts in charging infrastructure permitting, but they can draw on the experiences of those who have already addressed this issue and developed best practices. In this resource, the Electrification Coalition has compiled a list of best practices and shared resources that every jurisdiction can use to create the predictable regulatory environment necessary for developers to feel comfortable investing, for regulators to feel comfortable fast-tracking projects, and for consumers to feel comfortable that their EV will be even easier to keep fueled than their old internal combustion engine vehicle.
One trailblazing city when it comes to EVSE permitting reform is Orlando, Florida, which boasts a straightforward and streamlined permitting process that limits reviews to health and safety, as comprehensively detailed on the city’s website. Another prime example is Somerville, Massachusetts, which only requires an electrical permit, leading to expedited turnaround times often quicker than one business day. In Manteca, California, building staff offer pre-application meetings and provide applicants with a comprehensive project checklist.
Massachusetts and California have also taken noteworthy legislative steps. In Massachusetts, the EVSE Expedited Permitting Task Force, comprising state, municipal, utility, and NGO representatives, has created a template for local permitting officials. It includes the recommendation to designate a municipal employee as an EV permitting ombudsperson – a guiding hand for applicants navigating the complex landscape of permits and codes.
California, not to be outdone, passed AB 1236 in 2015, which limits EVSE project reviews to health and safety requirements. Building on this success, in 2021 AB 970 added specific binding timelines to review periods based on project size and reduced minimum parking count requirements for EV charging stations. The state’s building codes for EVs can be found in the California Green Building Standards Code, including provisions for different tiers of EV charging installation standards in “green” buildings. California’s best practices for EV charging station permitting can be easily found on their website.
To replicate and build upon these successes, policymakers at all levels should consider the following recommendations:
- Adopt Best Practices for Station Permitting: Encourage local governing authorities to adopt best practices for EV charging station permitting, helping them streamline processes and ensuring developers submit effective applications. The Electrification Coalition acts as a “one-stop-shop” for resources and recommendations regarding EV charging station permitting and EV-ready building codes, including factsheets and example legislation.
- Require Higher Levels of EV Charging Readiness: Mandate higher levels of EV charging readiness in new construction and major renovations, embedding sustainable practices into the fabric of our built environment. According to current best practices, to meet current and future EV needs, a mandate should be implemented that requires the following:
- Twenty percent of parking spaces in new construction and major renovations should be “EV Ready,” meaning that the electrical panel capacity, raceway, conduit, and receptacle are installed (the parking space is operational but still requires a portable cord set);
- As close to one hundred percent of parking spaces should be “EV Capable” as possible, meaning that the electrical panel capacity and raceway have been installed (the parking space is not yet operational as it requires additional electrical work);
- For multi-unit dwellings and non-residential/commercial properties, each parking stall should have at least 40-amp 208/240-volt service for each parking space;
- Subpanels should be distributed throughout the parking facility with no parking space more than 100 feet from an interconnection point;
- The building should be “future-proofed” by providing the option to utilize Automatic Load Management Systems (ALMS) to provide Level 2 EV charging to 100% of parking spaces, as described in NEC 625.41 (2014).
- Designate a Coordinator or Ombudsperson: Appoint a staff member as a coordinator or ombudsperson to serve as the primary point of contact on permitting, codes, and siting. This individual can guide applicants, review submissions, and facilitate effective stakeholder communication.
As we move toward a future where electrified transportation is not just an option but the norm, the foundation of any future success lies in the infrastructure we build today. States and municipalities must seize the current wave of federal funding to create an environment where a growing consumer base has adequate and reliable charging infrastructure. By streamlining processes, embracing best practices, and focusing on comprehensive infrastructure development, states and municipalities have the unique chance to deliver the convenient and reliable future their constituents expect. EV technology isn’t going anywhere, but it’s up to us to make sure the vehicles can go everywhere. The Electrification Coalition stands ready to help at every step along the way.