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By Emily Newton

How Are Cities Deciding Where to Add EV Charging Stations?

Cities cannot rely on electric vehicle (EV) owners to install personal EV charging stations at their houses. The effort to evenly disperse charging stations is a combined effort, and it’s one a city has to juggle amid already well-established transportation infrastructure.

For EVs to become commonplace, there must be enough stations to accommodate short walking distances to workplaces and entertainment venues. How do cities know the optimal location for a charging station? They’re still trying to figure it out, and there are many things to consider.

Intricacies of Placing an EV Charging Station

Roadways and parking infrastructure are solidly embedded into cities. Officials will have to find a way to work with parking garages, street parking, and commercial lots, or they will have to uproot everything and start over. Most cities are looking to public property, like libraries, rest stops, or parks, to install stations because of anticipated regular traffic.

Starting over is not cost-efficient, and the energy and resources required to overhaul roadways for EV infrastructure are counterproductive to the purpose of these vehicles — to reduce carbon footprints in the sector.

EV demand will rise faster than ever before, especially as legislation passes to provide tax credits for citizens. Cities will have to make changes more quickly than anticipated. This correlates to an intended responsibility of municipalities to EV manufacturers — they must provide access to stations. Otherwise, customers will not justify purchasing the vehicles, regardless of their affinity toward environmentalism. Therefore, dealers must pressure cities from an environmental responsibility standpoint and to benefit their bottom line.

With this in mind, local and federal governments are at the forefront of the EV charging station installation dialogue. Stakeholders, funding, and legislation will give cities guidance and updated regulations on how they should proceed, therefore quelling fears concerning slow progress.

However, development on this front is starting to accelerate, putting pressure on municipalities to comply with demand. Localized areas must swiftly secure funding, and construction and electrification firms need to attain permits. Until the infrastructure is more convenient, cities will need to work closely with electric charger vendors for input on what best suits citizens’ needs.

Ideas for Making It Happen

Hoboken, New Jersey, is experimenting with putting EV charging stations in street lamps — and it’s not the first city to experiment with this technology. These pole-mounted chargers (PMCs) are the forerunner in expedited installation. They already have an established connection to the grid and are an easy-to-incorporate, inexpensive solution in a short time frame.

This innovation can inspire other ideas to incorporate EV infrastructure into existing systems, especially outdated ones. Phone booths are a great example of technology becoming obsolete, but there are still ways to take advantage of their existence.

Another idea is to collaborate with rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. These drivers will eventually rely on consistent EV infrastructure to support their livelihood. Installers that work with them to gather data points about the most popular drop-off locations could guide decisions for further development.

This combines with analyzing roadway trends. Gathering as much data as possible provides insight into intricate traffic patterns to use as benchmarks. Station deployment can then be a ratio based on the number of electric vehicles in a city. This also ensures a correct disbursement of types of chargers — a municipality may require more for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the future, although plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are more common now.

Once this infrastructure is in place, cities must also delegate resources to maintain the stations. Engineers will have to repair wires and respond to outages — another hurdle for cities and companies. Luckily, businesses are preparing electricians for the job.

However, cities can also choose how to install stations based on budgetary concerns, optimizing to:

  • Choose wall-mounted singular connectors instead of standalone stations
  • Install them in high quantities in a single location if possible to reduce resource expenditure
  • Spread the word the public construction projects to incorporate EV stations with building blueprints
  • Choose areas where there is already solid electrical infrastructure and conduit runs
  • Prioritize slow rates of charge so scaling the rest of the grid can happen gradually, and they meet current driver demand immediately and efficiently

Innovations in Charging Technology

Plenty of visionaries are trying to make charging station installation easier. Innovations will help installers and create an even greener future for when these places are the new normal. This is especially important because the charging stations must be combined with renewable energy infrastructure to ensure the grid can scale.

Another consideration is safety, especially if they are going to be PMCs. Chargers have to be resilient to withstand car accidents and climate conditions. Many propose elevated chargers to prevent damage due to careless parking or flooding.

Cities must also consider less densely populated areas for their installation plans, such as tourist attractions like national parks. This could guide decisions for cities since traffic will be at these locations.

Other engineers are looking into the prospect of wireless and bidirectional chargers, which could help cities immensely when trying to make accessibility wider. Bidirectional chargers would allow drivers to get paid to send energy back, allowing cities to have less weight to carry when structuring a functional grid. The future of wireless charging could look like an autonomous system driving a car into a garage, parking it in a specific charging square and fueling it while parked.

Still, innovations will need to make them easily connectable to the grid without disrupting the natural environment. Companies are seeking to create apps for that problem — allowing drivers to use geolocation to find portable chargers to rent or borrow for longer journeys.

EV Charging Station Placement for a Reliable Future

Cities must brainstorm creative solutions for making EV station placement reasonable and accessible, but it’s needed for seamless implementation. Every city is experimenting with different innovations as a trial test for an optimized future. Installation is happening at a record rate, and EV infrastructure is sure to be one of the most noticeable shifts toward a more carbon-neutral existence.

Author Bio: Emily Newton is a tech journalist. As Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, she regularly covers science and technology stories. Subscribe to Innovation & Tech Today to read more from Emily.

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How Are Cities Deciding Where to Add EV Charging Stations?

November 21, 2022
By Emily Newton

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