Signage for Plug-In Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Signage for plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging stations is an important consideration at workplaces, public charging stations, parking garages, and multi-unit residential complexes that offer access to PEV charging infrastructure. Appropriate charging station signage can:
- Help PEV drivers navigate to and identify charging stations
- Optimize use of charging infrastructure by helping all drivers understand that parking spaces at charging stations are for PEVs only
- Provide information about policies—such as access, time limits, and hours of use—and facilitate enforcement
- Enable uptake of PEVs by providing visibility for charging infrastructure to prospective PEV drivers.
- Identify charging station corridors.
Wayfinding Signage for Charging Stations
Wayfinding signage helps electric vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) drivers navigate to charging stations from other locations, such as a freeway exit. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines the minimum standards for signage, which it publishes in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), updated every five to six years. The standards in the MUTCD apply to all signage on public highways, streets, bikeways, and private roads open to the public, such as at shopping centers and airports. Wayfinding signage is classified in the MUTCD as either General Service signs or Specific Service signs. Currently General Service signs are allowed by FHWA and the MUTCD for notifying travelers of upcoming services at a highway exit. FHWA has approved the following interim designs for charging station signs:
For wayfinding purposes, these designs can be combined with directional arrows and mileage. FHWA refers to the signs above as D9-11bp (written description) and D9-11b (symbol).
State and local transportation departments may create and add custom signage, but they must meet the minimum requirements defined in the MUTCD, to help drivers recognize signs from one jurisdiction to the next.
General information about sign placement and visibility can be found in Chapter 2A, Part 2 of the MUTCD.
Station signage helps EV and PHEV drivers identify charging stations. It also helps charging station hosts communicate and enforce policies related to the use of the charging infrastructure and associated parking spaces. For example, a station host may decide that spaces associated with charging stations are for only PHEVs and EVs that are actively charging, or it may decide to place a limit on the amount of time a vehicle may occupy a charging space.
To be enforceable, any signs posted in a public right of way must be supported by local ordinances that specify time limits, penalties, and definitions. Any signs posted in the public right of way must meet MUTCD requirements. Private parking areas that are not open to the public (such as employee parking areas at workplaces or at multi-unit dwellings) are not required to meet MUTCD signage requirements. But organizations that provide charging in private areas may find that consistency with the standards helps all drivers understand and recognize charging station signage.
Pavement markings, painted on the surface of a parking space, can be used to reinforce signage for charging stations. Notably, most jurisdictions deem pavement markings unenforceable on their own. For general information about pavement markings, see Chapter 3B of the MUTCD.
In 2013, the State of California updated the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (CA MUTCD) to include new charging station signage designs and optional pavement markings, and in 2020 further clarified General Service and Specific Service signs for alternative fuels. These clarifications can help guide other states interested in adopting more alternative fuel signage. Learn more about California's standards for charging station signage and pavement markings.
Also in California, the County of Santa Clara developed a charging infrastructure siting toolkit and reference guide titled Local Government Electric Vehicle Charging Station Siting Toolkit & Reference Guide, which includes recommendations for charging station signage and pavement markings.