To enable mass electric vehicle (EV) adoption, public charging access must be equitably distributed to support all drivers. For drivers who lack access to dedicated off-street parking or are unable to charge where they park, making the switch to an EV is not yet a logical choice.

To help improve access, the installation of public charging stations at the curbside is necessary. Unfortunately, cities looking to improve the availability of curbside chargers are too often confronted with high installation costs and a lack of available space for installation on crowded curbsides.

Pole-mounted electric vehicle charging.
A pole-mounted charger installed through a program by the Los Angeles Bureau of Streetlighting. Photo by Emmett Werthmann/WRI. View full gallery here.

To navigate these challenges, a new approach has emerged in U.S. and European cities: using existing utility pole and streetlight infrastructure to install EV charging stations, or pole-mounted charging. This paper highlights several benefits found for pole-mounted chargers (PMCs):

  1. PMCs can yield installation costs savings of 55%, potentially up to 70%, compared to ground-mounted chargers.
  2. By prioritizing areas with the least access to public charging, PMCs can enable a more equitable charger distribution. This can accelerate the electrification of ride-hailing platforms by helping overcome the barrier to EV charging access for drivers.
  3. With PMCs, EV chargers can be relocated with relative ease, making them adaptable assets that can meet the ever-changing needs of a city. They can also be installed several feet up on a pole, providing resilience, reducing vandalism, and keeping the chargers safely away from passing vehicles.
  4. By using existing infrastructure, PMCs can save valuable space on the sidewalk, improving walkability for pedestrians and making room for other public services.
  5. This is a solution that is heavily dependent on local context. Generally, utility poles are more suitable to mount PMCs in U.S. cities. For cities that have converted or are in the process of converting streetlights to LEDs, the excess capacity from efficiency gains can be used for EV charging through PMCs.

In the United States, PMCs are a solution growing in popularity, but there remains uncertainty regarding best practices and guidance for cities interested in assessing its feasibility. This paper aims to fill that gap and encourage cities to assess feasibility of PMCs in their local context.