Volta Charging for Smart, Clean Cities

Volta is committed to driving positive change in transportation by growing its nationwide network of free electric vehicle charging stations. Volta partners with like-minded sponsors to support free charging for all EV drivers.  As the builder of the largest free EV charging network in the US, Volta is uniquely positioned to help cities navigate the transition to clean transportation.

Key Learnings for Cities Installing Public Electric Vehicle Charging
Download PDF Version | October 2017

Cities throughout California are working hard installing much needed electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that there are over 3,500 Level 2 stations available for public use in the state, hundreds of which are managed by cities and counties.

Volta has been working with municipal, state and federal government officials to increase the number of public charging stations. In evaluating projects undertaken by ourselves and other EV charging providers, we have gathered some key learnings that will help public officials develop their own plan to expand charging options in their community:

Location, Location, Location Increases EV Awareness

A 2016 Harris Poll indicated at 62% of Americans don’t know what an electric vehicle charging station looks like and 80% are unfamiliar with how to plug in an EV. Getting stations in locations where people will see and use them is essential to educating people on their path to EV adoption.

Placing stations in downtown districts in the Right of Way and in high visibility locations like transit hubs and tourist destinations assures that people will see the stations in their day to day lives. Research by Finn research suggest that over 65% of people who encounter prominent electric vehicle charging stations will consider buying an EV the next time they are looking for a new car.

How to Manage Encroachment and Accessibility

Best practices for installing public charging stations in the Right of Way keeps the pedestrian zone free of charging stations, placing them as you would place fire hydrants, benches and sign supports in the street furniture zone near the curb of the roadway. Many municipalities have been successful by folding EV charging stations into their existing encroachment permitting process. 

At the beginning of 2017, the California Building Code was amended with new standards in Chapter 11B – Accessibility. These standards establish the number of van and standard accessible spots that must be designated when installing new charging stations.

One example, in new installations one of the first four spaces must be a van-accessible space. Subsequent spaces require different EV charging ratios.

Though these standards do not speak to how to address accessibility in the Right of Way, the Proposed Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way (PROWAG) from the Access Board offer good general guidance.

New Answers from California Division of the State Architect

As city and county leaders think through charging infrastructure and are looking to provide guidance to their building departments, the Division of the State Architect (DSA) offers excellent resources on Electric Vehicle Charging Station Accessibility.  The DSA recently posted an extremely useful FAQ. It explains how to address issues on signage, accessible path of travel concerns and how to handle complicated questions such as general requirements for curbside locations.  This document is definitely one of the best high level resources for City officials to review.

How Electricity Can Power Equity

Creating a network of charging that supports equitable development goals and assures that people from all the communities in a city have access to charging is a key planning goal for most local governments. Using charging stations to support car sharing and placing it in public locations that allow people without access to charging at home to charge throughout their day helps more people adopt this new technology. Volta stations offer free charging and can be a contributing element to expanding access to EV charging.

AB1236: New Rules for Local Electric Vehicle Charging Station Permitting
Download PDF Version | September 2017

On Sept. 30, 2017, new rules for permitting electric vehicle charging stations go into effect for cities and counties across California per AB 1236.   Many municipalities and counties will need to change their existing permitting processes to comply with the rules.  Here is a bit of background to help municipal leaders understand the changes needed.

Use Permits Will Be Rare

The new rules (Cal. Gov. Code § 65850.7) will require building officials to streamline the permitting process for electric vehicle charging stations.  The new standards mean building officials may now only require a use permit if the installation “could have a specific, adverse impact upon the public health or safety.”  The rules are set such that finding a health or safety issue requires “a significant, quantifiable, direct, and unavoidable impact, based on objective, identified, and written public health or safety standards, policies, or conditions as they existed on the date the application was deemed complete.”  This is a high bar and in most cases permits will need to be expedited.

A Little History

Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order in 2012 with the goal of having one million zero emission vehicles in California by 2020 and 1.5 million by 2025.  In order to support these ambitious objectives, the California legislature passed AB 1236 in 2015 and the Governor signed it.  As of Sept. 30, 2016, it applied only to  cities with populations over 200,000 people. This September 30, 2017, it goes into effect for all municipalities and counties in California.

Which Cities Have to Make Changes Now?

As we approach September, cities and counties with fewer than 200,000 residents will want to take similar action to make sure they are in compliance with the new State Law.

Sample ordinances:

Can Local Governments Claim Any Exemptions?      

The law suggests that people “may refer to” the Governor’s office publication 2012 Zero-Emission Vehicles in California: Community Readiness Guidebook when it comes to authoring ordinances.  But it allows modification of the checklists laid out in the Guidebook only “due to unique climatic, geological, seismological, or topographical conditions.”  If you are going to vary from the standard in the publications, it seems variation is only allowed if you have a special case with regard to one of these elements – a narrow exception.

What Cities Must Post Online

  1. Cities will have to post their expedited review process online in checklist form.

  2. Permit applications and documentation must be accepted online, including an electronic rather than a wet signature. This last rule is a soft one.  The code makes it clear that local governments that cannot accept electronic signatures need only state why they cannot and they can skip this element in the ordinance.

Volta Is Here to Help

As the builder of the largest free EV charging network in the US, Volta is uniquely positioned to help cities navigate the transition to clean transportation. If there is any additional information we can provide about AB1236, feel free to send us an email or give us a call.

Volta Charging
155 De Haro St. 
San Francisco, CA

Public Partnerships Phone: 415.290.9400  |  
Email: ben.foss@voltacharging.com

ABOUT VOLTA | Volta is committed to driving positive change in transportation by growing its nationwide network of free electric vehicle charging stations. Volta partners with like-minded sponsors to support free charging for all EV drivers. Volta’s innovative infrastructure is leading the way for the future needs of mobility. Volta provides free, convenient electric vehicle charging at public and private sites across the US including shopping malls, grocery stores, local retailers, and sports complexes. In addition to environmental benefits, Volta stations also help local business by encouraging new customers to visit and stay longer at local establishments. Founded in 2010 and headquartered in San Francisco, Volta leverages the power of brand sponsorships to provide a valuable community amenity and drive electric vehicle adoption in markets across the U.S.