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Community and Q&A

electric vehicle charging – on the street / easement

neutral_grey | Posted in General Questions on

This is not a building-structure question, obviously; but it is partly an electrical code issue, and is clearly related to our de-carbonization (access to home charging is a massive barrier to EV adoption), so I would propose/hope this is relevant to the forum.

Tl;dr – I’d like to charge my car on the (public) street in front of my house.

I own my house, but do not have off-street (alley) parking.  I’d like to buy an EV for our next car.  However, not having charging at home is:
– insanely less convenient (I know first hand, as a family member did it for a year until their alley garage was built).  If you don’t own an EV, you might not be aware that they discharge just sitting in place 🙂 That family member ended up at the supercharger 3 times a month for pretty minimal city errands.
– more expensive (even without TOU billing) charging at home is half the cost of a supercharger
– battery lasts longer charging at low rates rather than as quickly as possible.

My idea was to put a charger (or dedicated circuit fro mobile charger) in a small, lockable, aesthetically pleasing (custom bench seat, planter box, etc), and be able to park near it and plug in overnight.  Technically I believe the city owns the easement – but I am required to maintain it AFAICT in Idaho.

Any advise on how to make this happen?

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  1. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #1

    I think this is an intensely local question. Here's how we do it in DC:

    It's actually not uncommon these days to see an extension cord running out to a street parking spot. It's something cities are going to have to deal with.

    Also think about how you prevent unauthorized usage. It's the 21st century version of siphoning gas.

  2. walta100 | | #2

    My guess is the chances of you getting permission and a permit to add anything permit in any easement is very close to zero.

    To my ear a cord running across a public sidewalk 300 + nights a year sounds like it is only a matter of time before some drunk on a cell phone trips on the cord and sues you for a million dollars worth of dental work.


  3. Expert Member


    You will need approval from your municipality and the utility. I'd suggest approaching your city councillor and telling them about your dilemma. Frame it as something they should work out a policy around as it's going to become much more common in the near future.

  4. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #4

    What you are thinking of as an “easement” is actually a “right of way”. There is a difference — easements are basically grants you make to allow someone else to cross your land. This is the case with utility lines across the back of your property. Rights of way are land that you don’t own, and are typically a sort of public trust, owned by your city or county (usually). You would generally not need a permit to build in an easement on your own land, unless it’s an exclusive easement (most aren’t), but there may be some exclusions to what you can build (houses can’t be built under utility lines, for example, but driveways can).

    With a right of way like a road, you need a permit since you basically need to ask for permission from the land owner to use their land. Right of way use permits are usually done through the engineering office of a city and not the building department. If you only want to build a small electrical fixture, and it’s going to go in the right of way next to property you own, there is a pretty good chance you’ll be able to get a permit. You’re going to have to build to code though, and there may be other requirements too that the city engineer can describe. You will be required to do any ground restoration after trenching to meet the road commissions specs if you’re in a road right of way. You’re probably looking at somewhere in the few hundred to $1,000 range for permit fees, and those fees vary widely between municipalities.

    I would set a post, such as a 4x4, and place a receptacle on that post with an in-use cover. I would feed this receptacle with a dedicated GFCI circuit breaker in the house. I would run PVC conduit from the house to the receptacle and pull individual wires in the conduit, I would NOT use direct bury cable. Part of the reason for that is to allow for future upgrades. I’d use at least 3/4” conduit, 1” is better. A much better option than a receptacle is a dedicated charger, some of which offer security services so that you can control who is able to charge there. Chargepoint is one manufacturer of such chargers. It’s been a while since I’ve installed one of theirs though, most newer installs I’ve been involved with are in parking lots and are offered free of charge, so they don’t need to be secured.

    Call your city’s engineering office and tell them what you want to do, they should be able to get you the forms you need to apply for a right of way use permit. You’ll need to fill out a form, and you’ll need to provide a drawing of your layout, and possibly other things. They may want you to get a survey too, but I’d doubt they’d require that for a small project like this. I usually don’t have to deal with surveys at work even when I’m building miles of utility facilities alongside roads.


    1. neutral_grey | | #5

      good info, thanks. We're planning on talking to the city this week (it's not clear whether the sidewalk/grass to curb is actually easement or ROW), and I'm eager to see what their reaction is.

      I actually plan on asking more generally in the first meeting, about [private] use in the ROW/easement - eg building semi-perminant things such as benches, planter boxes, etc; and then about installing electricity there (the use case i will mention is a path light, year-round tree light, etc).

      My reasoning is that the electric vehicle charging is all the above PLUS some additional concerns (the "use" additionally stretches into the road), and there are some implications for conflict over parking spaces (in the general case, i understand i have no right to that parking 'spot'). Since those uses are new (probably 100% new to this jurisdiction) i want to ease into it.

      If the feeling (or direct answer) is definitely NO, then I will pursue a front-of-house 240v circuit, and an approprate extension cord / mobile charger with cable-guard over the sidewalk. Since that seems not preventable (no HOA's, current laws AFAICT etc) _but_ probably worse for all involve, I'd go to my council once I'm using that, and be able to say "help me make this better".

      1. Expert Member
        BILL WICHERS | | #6

        A quick look at the survey with your deed should identify any easements on your property, and also where the lot lines are. Rights of way (like roads) adjacent to your property should also be identified.


      2. charlie_sullivan | | #8

        What's the distance from your house to the street? The maximum cord length on a UL listed EVSE ("ev charger") is 25'. You might still need to mount it on a post with a buried line (ideally in conduit) going to the post, but put the post inside your lot line. That still leaves the sidewalk crossing problem. A slit cut in the sidewalk with flush cover over it would be much nicer and safer than a cord cover that sticks up.

        Good EVSEs include Chargepoint, Clipper Creek and Grizzle-E. Those are all UL listed and have good reputations for reliability.

        For disabling it to prevent unauthorized use, you can use one with smart controls and an app, or you can switch the power to it inside the house, or you can buy an option on Clipper Creeks to have a keyswitch on the unit, or a low-voltage control line that you can run to a remote switch, which could simply be hidden somewhere nearby.

        Or you could go ahead and allow other people to use it.

  5. walta100 | | #7

    My first reaction may have been a little strong but this will be an uphill battle.

    Understand the people in the building department tend to be restraint to any change and their job is not to bend the current rules or make new rules their job is to read the book of rules and enforce what is in the rule book. They maybe for your idea or against it but in the end the only thing that matters is what is in the rule book.

    You may want to be honest and up front about what you are after. People are always trying to find a way to slip something past them and that must get old fast.

    Generally something is in the rules to disallow it or not and ask for help getting what you need without violating the rules and understanding what rules are the problem. Once you understand what rules are the problem you can talk to your elected representatives about what you want changed. If your end goal is electric vehicle parking only zones be up front and if not say so.


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