Reason for action
The DOT occupies an important role in deploying charging infrastructure. Without any funding, DOT expertise on road use and travel patterns, for example, can provide critical input to stakeholders developing best practices on charging station siting.
In terms of building out charging infrastructure, many DOTs have focused on highway corridor charging. Although most charging occurs at home or at the workplace, consumers may want the opportunity to travel long distances; more research is needed on the importance of corridor charging. If the DOT determines that corridor charging is an effective investment, it has to overcome several obstacles. Because the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 prohibits commercialization of rest stops on all highways built with funds from the Highway Trust Fund, charging infrastructure cannot be built along highway right-of-way unless charging services are offered for free. Alternatively, the DOT can build at off-ramp locations.
Implementing the action
- Determine early on whether DOE or FHWA has NEPA jurisdiction. Some projects may require NEPA processes under both DOE and FHWA. If a categorical exclusion is not feasible, the DOT should work to streamline the NEPA process and avoid redundancy. Spotlight: Although both DOE and FHWA’s NEPA requirements had jurisdiction over Oregon’s solar highway project, Oregon followed the FHWA NEPA process after DOE agreed that the FHWA process was adequate for DOE, as long as certain DOE NEPA conditions were fulfilled.
- Justify the installation of charging stations along highway rest stops. The agency should define the objective for installing charging stations at highway rest stops. The major reason for installing charging stations is to alleviate range anxiety. Moreover, although this has not been fully explored, free charging can potentially be justified on safety grounds, similar to the way state DOTs provide a small amount of gasoline for stranded motorists.
- Arrange for the financing of electricity at rest stop charging stations. Charging stations along any federal highway rest stops are allowed if the charging is provided free. Spotlight: North Carolina DOT aided in installing charging stations at a rest stop, where electricity is provided for free. Spotlight: Washington is providing free Level 2 chargers along several rest stops. Although the cost of providing this electricity for free was considered negligible to the DOT, the cost of electricity is sponsored by a public non-profit (www.adoptacharger.com).
- Identify a process for installing charging stations at off-ramp locations if the DOT prefers off-ramp installation. Convincing private businesses to host charging stations may be difficult, especially if the business has to pay for any of the installation and/or operating costs. However, installing charging stations may increase business at the location or brand the business as environmentally friendly. Spotlight: Oregon DOT installed charging stations at private off-ramp vendors including restaurants and hotels at no cost to the business. AeroVironment, the contractor, operates the charging stations and pays for the electricity.
- Use ODOT and WSDOT’s jointly developed Host Site Specifications for West Coast Green Highway EV Charging Stations as a resource and a potential starting point.
- Consider coupling PEV charging station installations with additional alternative energy infrastructure for highway rights-of-way (e.g., solar panels, biomass crops, and wind turbines). See Action 3.5 Address Transportation Finance Concerns with PEVs. More information is available from the FHWA report on Alternative Uses of Highway Rights-of-Way (PDF version here).
- Prioritize sites promoting both corridor travel and daily driving. Spotlight: the Puget Sound Regional Council, the City of Seattle, and ECOtality are deploying charging stations around Seattle that can serve various charging uses, including intercity travel and daily commuting.
- Prepare for public scrutiny. Without good locations and careful siting, charging stations may go unused. Moreover, some of the best locations (i.e., public rest stops or popular businesses) may be unavailable. Spotlight: Newspapers in both Massachusetts and Tennessee have published stories on unused charging stations.See Action 2.17 for agency counterpoints to these articles.