You’re about to see a lot more Electric Vehicle Charging Stations (EVCS) on your daily drive. Within months of taking office, the Biden Administration announced an initiative to build half a million new charging stations across the country. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act, which passed in November 2021, includes $7.5 billion towards this goal; the Administration’s signature domestic policy bill, the Build Back Better act, also includes funding to promote electric vehicles and expand the public charging network. California’s governor is promoting an ambitious plan of 500,000 electric vehicles on the state’s road in five years.
This is exciting news for the owners, operators and designers of EVCSs, and a welcome boost for a rapidly growing industry. What many companies are not considering, however, are the needs of the disabled drivers who will need to be able to access their electric vehicle charging stations.
The ADA does not currently include specific guidelines for EVCSs, but they will still need to be accessible. Some variation of the ADA standards, such as those for parking, operable parts, and kiosks will likely apply to charging stations.
For example, EVCS owners and installers will need to provide the correct number of accessible charging stalls, as well as ensure that those spaces meet dimension, path of travel, and slope requirements. If a charging station requires the user to connect the charging cable to the car manually, consideration should be given to whether the apparatus is independently usable by customers with a range of mobility needs, including the inability to pinch, tightly grasp, twist, or lift more than 5 pounds. Any sort of payment or operation screen could be considered a kiosk, and should meet the same interactive requirements as for ATMs or vending machines.
The U.S. Access Board, which makes accessibility recommendations to the Department of Justice, has indicated that it is currently focused on EVCSs; it may be several years, however, before any recommended guidelines are submitted, adopted and enforceable. Unlike gas stations, which were exempt when the ADA was adopted in 1990 because they had been in wide use for decades, the electric vehicle charging industry is new and developing today. The Access Board has the opportunity to build accessibility guidelines into the industry as it grows.
If you own, operate, design or install EVCS, this is your opportunity to be ahead of the curve. By considering ADA guidelines now, you can be sure that you’re rolling out charging stations that provide full and equal access to the services your business offers. This could save you significant time and expense when guidelines do eventually come out; it could also limit your exposure to liability in class action cases, which can be in the millions of dollars.
JMBM is one of the leading firms addressing EVCS accessibility. For more information about California standards for charging station accessibility, read our previous alert.