Have you seen the blue signs on highways that direct travelers to electric vehicle charging stations? They have a symbol that looks like a gas pump but with a plug instead of a nozzle and the letters “EV” on it.
These wayfinding signs help alert EV drivers of “refueling” services just like the signs notifying drivers of gas and diesel stations at an upcoming exit. These alternative fueling station signs also help create public awareness of the existence of EV charging stations. This helps people feel more comfortable about purchasing a plug-in electric vehicle.
Montgomery County Maryland Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is initiating a program to install EV charging wayfinding signs in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton. MCDOT plans 42 wayfinding signs in and around public parking facilities that currently have EV charging stations. See: Montgomery County Adds EV Charging to Five More Garages
Standardized Signs Based on Federal MUTCD Standards
The goal is to assist EV owners to locate charging stations and to make the public aware of the County’s charging infrastructure. The signs are based on the D9-11b standard general services sign. These are approved by the Federal Highway Administration in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
MCDOT Director Chris Conklin says, “Letting the public know that these charging stations are available is important to encourage the use of electric vehicles.” Montgomery County has committed to a zero-emissions goal by 2035.
20 Level 2 Charging Stations in MCDOT Parking Facilities
There are 20 public Level 2 charging stations in parking facilities supported by MCDOT Division of Parking Management. These charging stations in Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Wheaton cost $0.13 per kWh. There is a four-hour limit for the charging spaces which are designated for electric vehicle charging only. See: Montgomery County Updates EV Charging Signs
Enforceable Signs for County Anti-ICEing Ordinance
Charging stations at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland now have new signs. The BGE EVsmart stations that opened in January originally had green and white signs with “electric vehicle parking only” and a logo depicting a car with a plug. Those signs were not enforceable under the Howard County anti-ICEing ordinance.
The local EV community advocated for an anti-ICEing ordinance and Howard County passed legislation in 2014. See: Video of Public Comments on Howard Co. Bill CB36-2014. The ordinance requires official signs that meet federal and state standards to designate a charging space before police can enforce the prohibition.
Official Signs Comply with Federal and State Standards for Parking Signs
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a Policy Statement on June 17, 2013 to address regulatory sign standards for electric vehicle charging and parking facilities. Howard County has chosen to use the “NO PARKING EXCEPT WHILE CHARGING” (R7-113) signs at the utility-operated charging stations located on county-owned property.
Standardized signs are are a good idea even in places that don’t yet have an anti-ICEing law. They are the best way to communicate that spaces in front of EV charging stations are not parking spots, they are for electric vehicles while being recharged.
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.
Commercial Vehicles Not Welcome at Some Maryland Public Charging Stations
Government encourages us to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels by driving electric vehicles. Some cities and states support these efforts by installing EV charging equipment on public property. What happens when government decides to prohibit commercial electric vehicles from using public charging stations?
Hyattsville and Takoma Park, Maryland are environmentally friendly towns that enthusiastically support EV charging. The Hyattsville, MD Police Department is the first in the US to use a Chevy Bolt EV patrol car. Takoma Park attracted national attention when a former gas station dumped the pumps and installed Fast Chargers.
Perhaps due to the pioneering nature of these two towns, they are also first to experience challenges that go with providing the public with free EV charging.
For-Hire Cars Prohibited at Grant Funded Chargers in Hyattsville
Two DC Fast Chargers at Hyattsville City Municipal Center opened in August, 2018. The chargers are funded in part by a grant from the Maryland Energy Administration. The MEA grant program has helped fund many other fast chargers in Maryland from Ocean City to Hagerstown.
The guidelines for the Maryland Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Program require that DC Fast Chargers funded by the program be publicly accessible. The guidelines don’t clarify if the term “publicly accessible” applies to making the chargers available to commercial vehicles.
The City of Hyattsville partnered with the grantee to provide a site for the two 50 kW chargers in the parking lot in front of the City Municipal Center.
According to the Manager of Code and Parking Compliance for the City of Hyattsville, the city’s position is that the chargers are not intended for use by commercial vehicles and the City Administrator directed that signs be posted that prohibit any “for-hire” vehicles from parking or charging there.
Electrify America is building one of their largest and highest powered charging stations in the parking lot of Walmart in Columbia, Maryland. There are 10 DC Fast Charging dispensers, five are labeled 320 kW.
When construction started to wind down and signs were installed, I was disappointed to see only “branding” signs with, “EV charging only” printed in small, thin letters on the far ends of the charging area. I took to Twitter and asked @ElectrifyAm for signs that conformed to the MUTCD standards so that the police could enforce Howard County’s anti-ICEing ordinance.
Montgomery County Department of Transportation, Division of Parking (MCDOT), which manages the operation and enforcement of Electric Vehicle charging stations in all County owned and operated public parking facilities, has changed the signs at their EV charging stations to clearly state that the spots are for charging. The new signs are in response to customer feedback that electric vehicles were parking in the spaces and not actually plugging in and charging.
The previous signs stated, “No Parking Except Electric Vehicles” which may not have communicated clearly enough for some that the spots are intended for using the charging station and not just for parking an EV. Read More …
On March 4, 2013 I contacted the Columbia Association, a non-profit community organization that had recently used a U.S. Dept. of Energy grant and their own funds to install five EV charging stations at four of their facilities in Howard County, Maryland. I thanked them as an EV driver and suggested they post “no parking except for electric vehicle charging” signs at the charging stations since there were often gas vehicles parked in front of them.
Other EV drivers also contacted them about the ICEing problem. The response we got was that they had designed blue signs that said, “Electric Vehicle Charging Station.” They added that they were not willing to post signs that restricted parking to electric vehicles only, in part, because there were no enforceable regulations similar to those for handicapped spaces. Read More …
A Policy Statement issued June 17, 2013 by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration addresses regulatory sign standards for electric vehicle charging and parking facilities. [Link to webpage]
This Policy is intended to provide guidance based on the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) for uniformity among regulatory signs used for on-street electric vehicle charging and parking sites.
This Policy can be shared with local officials and property owners that wish to have signs that conform to MUTCD specifications that are required in some jurisdictions in order for the police to enforce anti-ICEing laws. (legislation reference)
Signs have been posted at public charging stations in Ocean City, Maryland that read, “ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING ONLY, PARKING WHILE NOT CONNECTED TO CHARGING EQUIPMENT IS A PARKING INFRACTION, $30.00 PENALTY.”
Ocean City is apparently using an existing local ordinance rather than passing a specific anti-ICEing law to regulate and enforce parking at EV charging stations at city-owned parking facilities. Town ordinance 90-137d4 prohibits parking where prohibited by an official sign. That offense carries a maximum $30 fine.
Sec. 90-137. – Stopping, standing or parking prohibited in certain places; other parking restrictions.
(d) Parking. A person may not:
(4) Park a vehicle at any other place where parking is prohibited by an official sign.
The signs also prohibit electric vehicles from parking and not plugging in. The charging stations where the signs are posted are on city property and there is no fee to use them at this time.
Thanks to Chrgit for the tip and photo.
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Last Tuesday the Howard County Council voted on a bill to authorize the Howard County Police Department to enforce parking restrictions at designated plug-in vehicle charging stations on private property. Within four days, the Columbia Association had taken down all signs that said “EV PARKING ONLY” at their five EV charging stations in the county.
Dennis Mattey, Director of Open Space & Facilities Services at Columbia Association said the “EV PARKING ONLY” signs were taken down in response to the recent Howard County legislation. He said that they didn’t want people to get tickets. According to Mattey, the charging stations were originally approved under the premise that the parking spots not be only for EVs. He said the signs will be replaced with ones that designate EV preferred parking.
Columbia Association Changed Position on Signage
The reason given for removing the signs contradicts the Columbia Association’s earlier position that “EV ONLY” signs were not posted because of the absence of legislation related to EV charging spaces.
In a Columbia Association Newsletter announcing the charging stations in 2014, the reason given as to why the charging spots were not reserved for EVs only was said to be because of the lack of an enforceable law.
“There are several reasons the adjacent parking spaces are not posted as reserved for EV use only. First there is no statute in Maryland or Howard County designating EV charging station sites as a category of privileged parking (such as the signage posted for handicapped parking). Thus, there is no police enforcement mechanism for EV only designation.”
When Howard County passed its anti-ICEing law in July, 2014, the Columbia Association changed the signs from “Electric Vehicle Charging Station” to “EV PARKING ONLY 4 HOUR LIMIT” once they saw there was an enforceable regulation for EV charging station parking.
The advocacy for the Howard County anti-ICEing law was done largely to solve the problem at the Columbia Association charging stations, especially the one near Kahler Hall. Now that a law has been passed, the Columbia Association has reversed their position and cites the existence rather than the lack of an enforceable regulation as the reason not to reserve the charging spaces for EVs only.
A statewide anti-ICEing bill, sponsored by Delegate Clarence Lam, is now before the Maryland General Assembly.