Promotes Uniformity Among Signs at EV Charging Stations
Spaces in front of EV charging stations are not parking spots, they are for electric vehicles while being refueled. Official signs that meet federal and state standards are the best way to communicate this message.
At the dawn of the automobile age, directional road signs were mostly an endeavor by private groups such as the AAA and other automobile clubs. Signs were used by these groups for promotion and branding as much as they were for directions and information. This led to a hodgepodge of directional signage along the roadways. In the 1920s, government began to develop signage standards. The familiar octagonal stop sign, for instance, grew out of those efforts.
Today, we are seeing a similar trend in signs placed at electric vehicle charging stations. Charging station operators often have distinct and different signs. Some seem designed with a priority for branding and style over clarity and uniformity. This leads to ambiguous messaging and more blocked charging stations.
Federal Standards for Parking Signs
Standards for size, shape, color, etc. for signs placed on roadways and parking lots are defined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). By law, all traffic control devices must conform to these standards.
The FHWA issued a Policy Statement on June 17, 2013 to address regulatory sign standards for electric vehicle charging and parking facilities. The document contains recommended signs with word legends to convey parking restrictions at EV charging stations. Howard County chose to use the R7-113 example provided by the FHWA to post at 31 utility-operated charging stations located at five county-owned sites. These “no parking except while charging” regulatory signs replaced green and white signs with “electric vehicle parking only” and a logo depicting a car with a plug.
Two Fast Chargers have been added to the existing Level 2 charging stations in the Municipal parking lot in Mount Airy, Maryland.
The Town of Mount Airy first installed EV charging stations when a local resident suggested they could encourage more visitors to stop and spend time visiting the shops and restaurants of the historic downtown. Mayor Pat Rockinberg, who happened to drive an electric car, liked the idea and the Town Council agreed.
The Level 2 stations were free to encourage “EV Tourism” so visitors to Mt. Airy could plug in while they “stop, shop and stroll” the downtown area. About a year ago, the town added two Tesla charging stations in the Municipal Lot next to the Schneider Level 2. This summer, another pair of Tesla charging stations were installed in nearby Watkins Park.
The new Mount Airy Fast Chargers are placed in the original spots for the Level 2 station. It’s unclear if the Level 2 station will remain, be taken out or moved.
Enjoy your visit to Mt. Airy and tell them that the charging stations helped you decide to come there. Also encourage other communities to install EV charging to attract visitors.
To Distribute $11.3 Million in VW Settlement Funds
The Maryland Department of Environment, in coordination with the Maryland Energy Administration, has developed frameworks for proposals on two grant programs to distribute $11.3 million of the state’s Volkswagen Mitigation Plan funding to help install electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Will this finally lead to our promised DC Fast Charging in Western Maryland?
Maryland Electric Corridors Grant Program
The proposed Maryland Electric Corridors Grant Program (ECGP) will help fund the placement of DC Fast Charging stations to be located along Federal Highway Administration designated Alternative Fuel Corridors. The electric charging Alternative Fuel Corridors include I-68/I-70 in Western Maryland and US Routes 50 and 301 on the Eastern shore. Grant awardees will get up to 60% of the cost to install DCFC stations that conform to the ECGP guidelines.
The ECGP grant guidelines are similar, but not exactly the same, as previous MEA administered grant programs to fund DC Fast Chargers. The Maryland electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program (eVIP) initially distributed $1 million to seed private investment in the build-out of a statewide fast charging network. The eVIP program was supposed to cover every corner of the state when then Attorney General Doug Gansler announced it in April, 2014. It helped to fund early DCFC installations at Royal Farms stores as well as chargers installed by EVgo and others.
The eVIP initiative was later expanded to include funding for other alternative fueling infrastructure and renamed the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Program or AFIP. The guidelines for AFIP have been tweaked in recent years to include improvements that benefit EV drivers such as requiring at least two chargers per location to ensure redundancy.
Guidelines in the newly proposed ECGP framework include:
A new Tesla Supercharger and an Electrify America site both opened in Maryland around the same time 10 months ago. This presents an interesting opportunity to compare the energy used at the two sites.
The Hanover Supercharger opened around November 11, 2019. It consists of eight stalls on the third level of the parking garage at the Hotel at Arundel Preserve. The maximum power to each stall is 72 kW. As of September 9, 2020, the meter is at 387.4 MWh.
BGE and the City of Baltimore are nearing an agreement to allow BGE-owned public charging stations to be installed at certain locations within the City. The Baltimore City Council introduced a bill this week that would grant a franchise to BGE to install and operate public charging stations on City rights-of-way and at certain park properties.
According to the 1st Reader text of Council Bill 20-0573 (copied below), the City would grant BGE a right to “install, operate, maintain, repair, replace, and remove electric vehicle charging stations at City-approved locations on City right-of-way and on Park Properties.” The initial term of the franchise is proposed to be one year with an automatic annual renewal for 25 years total.
Section 4 of the bill suggests that BGE shall pay Baltimore an unspecified franchise charge each year. The franchise charge can increase or decrease and the franchise can be cancelled by either party at the end of the initial or any renewal term.
The Maryland PSC Order No. 88997, issued on January 14, 2019, requires that utility-owned and operated charging stations must be located on property owned or controlled by state, county, or local governments.
Baltimore City Council assigned this bill to the Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Could western Maryland finally be getting DC Fast Charging? It’s been promised for years. Way back in April, 2014, then Maryland Attorney General, Doug Gansler, announced a $1 million grant program to build a statewide network of DC Fast Chargers that specifically included the western counties. That Maryland Fast Charging money was spent entirely between Hagerstown and Ocean City.
Recently, two Fast Chargers were built in Hancock, MD, about 20 miles west of Hagerstown. These are welcome, but it still leaves a lot of miles and elevation gain for EV drivers traveling to the mountains of Garrett and Allegany counties.
Potomac Edison has identified nine areas in their electric utility service area in Maryland where they wish to place public Fast Chargers under a pilot program approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission. They include, McHenry, Grantsville, Cumberland, Hancock, Thurmont, Frederick, Myersville, Mt. Airy and Urbana.
According to a report filed with the PSC, Potomac Edison is in the design phase to place two Fast Chargers and a Level 2 at the Deep Creek Visitors Center in McHenry. They are also working to place two Fast Chargers at a park on Main Street in Hancock, a few blocks from the existing pair of chargers.
The report stated that the utility has faced challenges in finding suitable sites with close proximity to the highway with amenities like restaurants nearby that also meet the requirement by the PSC that they be on government owned property.
Electrify America is building an electric vehicle charging station in Ellicott City, Maryland. The chargers are being installed in the south east corner of the Walmart at 3200 N Ridge Rd.
It appears that there will be four chargers on two side-by-side islands. There are four dispensers seen onsite, shown in the photo above.
Second EA Site in Howard County
An Electrify America charging station opened at the Walmart on Dobbin Rd. in Columbia, MD in November, 2019. That site is the largest CCS/CHAdeMO fast charging site in Maryland with ten stalls, delivering up to 350 kW.
Five other Electrify America sites are open in Maryland. They are in Abingdon, Hagerstown, Clarksburg, and Bowie. There are also at least three other Electrify America sites currently under construction in Maryland including Frederick, Arundel Mills and Annapolis. We don’t yet know when the Ellicott City site will open. Stay tuned.
Downtown Columbia, Maryland is a hotbed of electric vehicle charging station growth. In February this year, 40 charging ports came online in the Merriweather District Garage near the Merriweather Post Pavilion concert venue.
The stations at the apartments may be there to satisfy the Howard County EV-Ready ordinance that became effective in January, 2019. That new law requires the developer to put in at least one EV charging station for each 25 living units for newly constructed multi-residential buildings. It looks like the developer is working toward LEED Gold certification so that may be a factor in placing a few extra charging ports beyond the EV-Ready requirement.
Just down the street from Merriweather, BGE installed six charging stations at the Howard County Library Central Branch. These utility-owned public charging stations are part of a five-year ratepayer-funded pilot program approved by the Public Service Commission in 2019. The Level 2 stations at the library cost $0.18/kWh. That price may change periodically in response to market conditions subject to review by regulators.
Locations by Nordstroms and the Cheesecake Factory
The Mall in Columbia is within a short walk of the library. Volta Charging has started construction on a series of free EV charging stations at different spots around the mall. According to a permit issued by Howard County on May 22nd, they are working on 14 new electric car charging stations. Among the areas marked for construction is in front of Nordstroms and by the Cheesecake Factory.
Funding is available again, starting July 1, 2020, for the Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) Rebate Program administered by the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA). The Maryland EVSE Rebate is available to qualified individuals, non-profits, state or local governments, and businesses that install an electric vehicle charging station.
Eligible participants must apply for the rebate through the MEA. Rebates will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis until funding is depleted and is subject to the conditions of the program’s guidelines. The total amount of funding that is available for the fiscal year 2021 (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021) is $1,800,000.
The rebate amount for residential charging stations is 40% of the equipment purchase price and installation cost up to $700. Complete instructions on how to apply for the Maryland EVSE Rebate are located on the MEA Program page.
An Electrify America charging station is being built at the Walmart at 7400 Guilford Dr. in Frederick, MD. Construction is underway on the eastern side of the store at the edge of the parking lot. It appears that there will be four chargers situated on two islands. The charging dispensers are not yet on site.