Highway Electric Vehicle Charging Networks: 5 Essentials for an Expert Charging Plan
Transportation authorities are long-time innovators. Since 1966 when the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) was formed, transportation authorities have tracked citizen travel habits and changed road management as needed to ensure safe, convenient travel. And now, as the digital and physical travel worlds converge, authorities are planning for a nationwide electric vehicle (EV) charging network in their corridors. With an expert plan, DOTs will continue their long tradition of increasing quality of life for citizens by helping to decarbonize transportation, reduce tailpipe emissions, and support clean transportation adoption and use.
5 Essentials for an Expert Plan
- Stakeholder Engagement: Stakeholder engagement helps DOTs understand what matters most to their citizens and build essential partnerships that benefit the project across milestones. Taking time to identify and engage critical stakeholders—such as government, power utilities, technology vendors, rural communities, and higher education entities—promotes cohesive, multi-perspective decision-making. Black & Veatch finds that stakeholder engagement often reveals site planning and installation strategies that result in better outcomes. It also leads to plans that are more inclusive of the communities transportation authorities are trying to serve.
- Enhance EV Supplier Relationships: Enhanced vendor relationships with electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) providers help mitigate the risk and confusion associated with charging equipment technology review, equipment selection, and purchasing agreements. Black & Veatch observes that transportation authorities benefit from a knowledgeable and experienced advocate who works on their behalf to characterize EV supply risk, strategically source EVSE, review and negotiate contracts, and optimize outcomes.
- Informed Siting: Charging sites require adequate physical space to accommodate the EV equipment, power supply, and vehicle maneuvering. Thoughtful site selection minimizes project cost and time spent orienting charging facility layout and bringing adequate power to the site. Regardless of whether sites are existing rights-of-way or new locations, several factors dramatically affect schedule and cost, like distance from the site to a substation and whether additional upgrades are needed along the distribution circuit due to competing site developments and charging load.
- Think Ahead for Permits: Land use easements, right-of-way, and permitting requirements become more complex with increased power levels. This is driven by space requirements for charging equipment, as well as the required permits and permissions that the utility will need to cross multiple parcels belonging to multiple landowners as part of power delivery.
- Plan Ahead for Power: Beyond building upgrades, new charging loads may require upgraded or new utility feeders, substation modernization, and even new substations. Engineering, design, and construction scopes become more substantial with increasingly complex upgrades, which affects deployment cost and schedule. In general, a power delivery schedule without grid upgrades is about 8 months. A schedule with grid upgrades can run 48 months or longer depending on complexity of the upgrade, with a new substation serviced by new transmission lines being the most complex.
As the U.S. invests in EV charging networks, DOTs have the opportunity to decarbonize transportation and slash harmful tailpipe emissions. This nationwide expansion emphasizes the need to plan EV charging networks with broader community and regional systems in mind, paying attention to surrounding communities, power supply, and ideal site location and development.
Beyond charging, DOTs are laying the foundation for smart solutions of all kinds such as clean energy generation, connected and autonomous vehicles, and safety-centric apps like curve speed warning. This foundation supports the evolution of safe, sustainable transportation and clean energy, which is the ultimate futureproofing: resilience and citizen quality of life, no matter what the future brings.