• Sarah Lozanova

Understanding Utility Easements And Underground Surveys For Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations

The push to electrify vehicles is here. California plans to phase out the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines by 2035, and many state and local governments have created similarly ambitious EV targets. Now, there is an increased emphasis on creating an adequate charging infrastructure for EV drivers.

Roughly half of all vehicles in the U.S. belong to people with dedicated off-street parking spaces at home. However, many potential EV drivers will need to rely on EV chargers in condominium complexes, parking lots, workplaces and commercial properties. Ideally, EV drivers will have convenient, accessible charging options without significantly modifying their daily routines. Thus, many commercial properties will want to add EV chargers now or in the near future. And EV adoption depends on this.

Some electric service providers or state agencies offer incentives and rebates for installing EV chargers. For example, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority's Charge Ready NY program provides rebates for Level 2 chargers at public parking facilities, workplaces and multifamily dwellings.

For EV ownership to be widely appealing, public charging stations are critical, ideally with fast charging options. However, EV professionals have been encountering some charger installation hurdles. In particular, obtaining utility easements and interconnection to the electric grid can be challenging. As an EV professional, this is an important topic to understand to keep commercial projects on time and on budget.

What Is A Utility Easement?

Easements give another party the legal right to access property that is owned by someone else for a specific purpose. In some cases, it can impact what the property owner is allowed to do on or near a defined area. An example of a commercial easement might be allowing trucks to access a driveway to make deliveries.

Utility easements are some of the most common types of easements. Property owners can have several types of utility lines running through their land either above or below ground. These lines include water, power, sewer and gas.

Even though they may be on private property, utility companies need to have access to these lines to perform maintenance. For example, let’s say an electric utility line is down due to a storm, or a gas line breaks. Utility easements allow the crews access the property to fix the issue.

Utility easements highlight the rights of utility companies to access these lines. Sometimes, deeds may grant utility companies the right to use a certain corridor on the land along a property line for utility lines, poles, etc. However, some projects may not require utility easements, depending on the local policies, supply equipment ownership, and property layout.

One key feature of a commercial EV charger site is the available electrical service capacity and if there is enough capacity on the existing transformer and electrical panel. If not, the electrical infrastructure will need upgrades, or developers may be limited in how many chargers they can install. This is especially critical for direct current fast chargers (DCFCs) because they have a very large load compared to Level 2 chargers.

Obtaining utility easements, local building permits, and grid interconnection to move an electric vehicle charging station project forward can add weeks, months, or even more than a year to a project schedule. However, the requirements for each project vary considerably by the project.

What Do Utility Easements Mean For Commercial EV Charging Stations?

Unfortunately, obtaining utility easements can add to the project’s soft costs and introduce a degree of uncertainty. In some cases, the site host might be unwilling to provide an easement or may lack the legal authority to do so. Such issues can halt a project completely. Even without major obstacles, the permitting process can be expensive.

The cost of utility easements and other permits can seem especially high when installing just one charger. However, these costs do decrease significantly as a proportion of the total cost when installing multiple EV chargers. It is critical for commercial installers to help their clients to understand what the EV charger installation process entails to maintain a project timeline and ultimately a high level of client satisfaction.

For retrofitting commercial properties with EV chargers, a well-thought-out site plan can potentially sidestep some issues and enable EV charging that is convenient for drivers and hosts. Thus, designing a plan requires balancing various needs with property constraints and local building codes. Therefore, it is critical to have a clear picture of the property and its features.

As EV chargers become more widespread, they will be a consideration for new construction. Instead of retrofitting a project with EV chargers, this approach allows developers to build appropriate infrastructure at the outset. It may also help with future scaling as demand for charges increases over time.

What Is An Underground Utility Survey?

An underground utility survey is an accurate plan of the subsurface environment. It can be in different formats, including 3D. In addition, various technologies can be used to create underground utility surveys, such as Ground Penetrating Radar equipment and Electro-Magnetic Locators.

Underground utility surveys are an invaluable tool that can help minimize project risk, reduce planning time, increase confidence before excavation work, and help the project comply with regulations.

How Can An Underground Survey Impact Commercial EV Charging?

GreenLancer underground surveys include a site diagram, topographic map, trenching sites, and electrical lines and highlight various physical characteristics of the land. Surveys commonly highlight unground lines for sanitation, sewer, electricity, gas, and telephones. They may also include other features like fire hydrants, vegetation, water meters, light poles, fences, storm drains, and electric boxes.

These underground surveys are extremely useful for EV professionals and help inform where trenching and boring are needed for installing underground conduit, and highlight site limitations. This helps streamline the installation process and can ensure satisfied customers.

Utility Easements And Underground Surveys Can Ensure A Smooth Charger Installation Process

There have been many recent commitments for transportation electrification to slow climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and using renewable energy. Yet, there are still many common hurdles that EV equipment professionals encounter. Unfortunately, obtaining utility easements and permits can be a cumbersome process for some projects. Yet, there is a strong demand for DC fast chargers and fast charging services by various stakeholders. In some cases, partnerships and streamlining regulatory requirements are helping to remove project roadblocks.

High-quality underground surveys help remove these hurdles and streamline EV charger installation projects — GreenLancerEV can be your solution for seamless underground utility surveys, or check out many of our other services we provide for EV Charging Installers.