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Guide to EV Charging Station Planning & Zoning Requirements

Updated: May 7

zoning for EV charging stations

The Sustainable Energy Action Committee (SEAC), Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) put together a helpful guide for local officials on electric vehicle (EV) charging station planning and zoning. Planning and Zoning Guidance for Electric Vehicle Charger Deployment aims to make the deployment of EV charging points safe, fair, and easy for everyone involved, helping to further the clean energy movement.

With millions of commercial EV chargers on the horizon, it's crucial to have clear rules for installation and straightforward approval processes in towns and cities. Unfortunately, EV charging station zoning requirements can create bottlenecks for projects, hindering clean transportation. Read on to learn about some of the key concepts in the guide.

EV Charging Station Permitting Issues

Local governments play a pivotal role in shaping EV readiness through the EV charging station permitting approval. The three key components are ensuring building and electrical code compliance, navigating the planning and zoning review, and a streamlined EV charging station approval process.

The two key bodies and applicable codes that govern electric vehicle charging station installations and inspections are:

Interviews with EV charging contractors and providers highlight that planning and meeting EV charging station zoning requirements often present the biggest challenges in securing local government permit approval for EV charger projects.

GreenLancer specializes in EV charging station design, engineering, and permitting. Create an account to get started shopping for EV charging station services.

EV Charging Station Planning & Zoning Requirements

The guide focuses on issues related to planning and EV charging zoning requirement issues due to their significant impact on approval processes. Here's a breakdown of key aspects:

Planning Documents & Electric Car Charging Infrastructure

Challenges arise when municipal planning documents lack provisions for EV chargers, making the regulatory process unpredictable. Recommendations include addressing EV chargers in comprehensive plans, involving residents in the EV charging station planning processes, and collaborating with regional organizations and utility companies.

EV Charging Station Zoning Regulations and Use Designations

Challenges often arise in zoning codes as they may not properly categorize Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). Zoning officials might misclassify charging stations, treating them like traditional gas stations or determining that the property isn't zoned for hosting a charging station. 

These misclassifications can lead to zoning reviews for EV charging station projects, causing delays and increased project costs. Recommendations in the guide include adopting zoning language defining EVSE terms, classifying EV chargers as accessory uses (in most cases), and clearly stating rules for instances where EV chargers are a primary use.

Navigating Parking Requirements & Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment

EV charging and parking requirements go hand in hand. Key issues include parking count mandates, electric car charger accessibility, and EV readiness.

Parking Count and Mandates 

Issues arise when converting standard parking spaces to EV charging spaces is perceived as violating minimum parking requirements. Recommendations include allowing these spaces to count toward mandates, considering wheelchair-accessible charging spaces as two standard spaces, and updating municipal parking ordinances for clear enforcement.

Charging Station Accessibility

Concerns regarding the unclear characteristics and numbers of accessible EV charging spaces are addressed by placing accessible chargers on an accessible route to the entrance and deploying a scaled approach based on the total parking space count.

EV Charging Station Readiness

EV charger readiness involves preparing properties for future EV charger installation, typically during building construction. Many jurisdictions have adopted ordinances or building codes for new constructions, requiring a specific number of parking spaces to be EV Capable, EV Ready, or EVSE-installed. 

  • EV Capable means the property is ready to be wired for EV charging infrastructure

  • EV Ready indicates completed charging station wiring

  • EVSE-installed means that the electric vehicle charging stations are installed. 

Challenges to EVSE readiness include local opposition due to perceived added costs, site-specific readiness estimates, and determining suitable EV-capable, EV-ready, and EVSE-installed parking space ratios. Recommendations include enacting clear readiness requirements, providing information on compliance costs, and collaborating with utilities on grid capacity and programs.

ev charging station zoning requirements

Design, Aesthetics, and EVSE Location

Guidance compliance for design requirements can be unclear, sometimes intertwining aesthetic considerations with health and safety. Unreasonable height limitations and screening requirements may hinder certain EV charging projects.

Challenges arise when EV charger signage concerns are not addressed separately from other signage restrictions. Preferred locations for aesthetic considerations, required by local governments, may present additional challenges, such as increased project costs, permitting issues, and complicated construction timelines when EV charging infrastructure is sited at greater distances from power sources.

The report recommends that local governments should avoid adding aesthetic requirements for surface parking with EV charging stations that exceed those without charging. Ideally, EV charging projects should not trigger additional aesthetic and design requirements unrelated to the charging equipment itself.

Clear, readily available guidelines on all design and aesthetic requirements for electric car chargers, including illustrations of acceptable and unacceptable designs, should be provided by local jurisdictions. This information is especially crucial in sensitive zoning areas like historic districts. For public charging areas, added signage, lighting, and shelter can enhance safety, comfort, and convenience for EV charger users.

On-Street EV Chargers

Coordination among multiple local authorities is necessary for on-street charging. Issues such as ADA compliance, signage, charger aesthetics, and potential vandalism may cause concerns about chargers installed in the right-of-way. Parking issues and resistance against EV-reserved spaces on streets with low parking inventory relative to demand are common challenges.

The guide recommends letting deployment goals and priority locations for equitable on-street charging demonstrate to EV charging companies that the given community is open to partnership and charging station investment. 

The EV Charging Station Approval Process

The approval process encompasses zoning, parking, and design issues, including code compliance review for building, fire, and electrical codes. It includes the application process and application review.

EVSE Application Process

Challenges in some local governments include unclear or inconsistent EVSE application processes lacking guidance documents, checklists, and timelines. Issues such as the lack of dedicated EV charging application forms and wet signature requirements for forms pose barriers, especially since EV charging contractors are often not local to the project site. This inconsistency may hinder the swift and efficient approval of EV charging station projects.

EV Charger Application Review

The application review process in many local governments faces challenges due to inconsistency and a lack of transparency. Different interpretations of codes and ordinances by government staff, sequential reviews across multiple departments, and additional reviews by various boards or associations may contribute to delays. New issues introduced after the initial review comments and requirements unrelated to the current application, including changes in parking counts, further complicate the process. 

Recommendations in the guide include administratively approving accessory use EV charger permit applications meeting all requirements, implementing concurrent reviews across appropriate departments, assigning a point person to guide EV charger applicants through the entire permitting process, and providing training on EV charging-specific codes and ordinances for consistent interpretation.

Advancing EV Charging Station Zoning Requirements

By following these actionable recommendations in the guide, municipalities can create a transparent, predictable, and equitable approval process for EV charging infrastructure. This benefits local governments and accelerates the widespread adoption of EVs, contributing to a cleaner and sustainable transportation future.

GreenLancer’s mission is to accelerate the adoption of clean energy. Our EV services include EVSE permit services, plan sets, engineering stamps, and EVSE engineering reviews. Sign up today for free to begin shopping for EVSE services, or complete the submission form below to learn more. 


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