As electric vehicles become more popular, there is a growing demand for EV charging stations in residential and commercial settings. But for new station operators, there are many hurdles on the road to safe and compliant installation. From federal regulations to state-specific certifications, there are a number of EV charging station standards safeguarding the installation, management, and maintenance of EV charging stations across the country. These are the most important EV charging stations specifications you need to know.
US standards and federal regulations
Established standards govern EV charging equipment in the United States the same way they do more traditional electrical installations and critical infrastructure. Here are the main EV charging station specifications issued at the federal level:
National Electric Code Article 625
The National Fire Protection Association is responsible for the widely recognized NFPA 70 standard, also known as the National Electric Code (NEC). The NEC has been adopted nationwide as the benchmark in electrical safety, governing everything from initial design to physical installation and ongoing inspection. Article 625 of the NEC covers Electric Vehicle Charging Systems, laying out the guidelines for the safe installation and maintenance of EV charging equipment. It includes EV-specific rules for wiring, overcurrent protection, enclosures, signs, labels, and more. Some key points in article 625 include:
- Location: EV charging systems can be placed indoors or outdoors, as long as the selected location has sufficient space for all the physical infrastructure required and the charging cables are situated so that they can reach electric vehicles’ charging ports. The initial decision about where to place an EV charging system will dictate how operators must implement and address other safety factors, like ventilation, waterproofing, and shock protection.
- Height: Instead of mandating specific types of charger stands, Article 625 dictates how high off-the-ground EV chargers must be stored; 18 inches for indoor chargers and 24 inches for outdoor chargers. Other than that, EV chargers can be mounted in virtually any configuration that satisfies the rest of the safety measures outlined in the standard.
- Cables & cable management: EV charging systems must use appropriate cables for their location, and should carry one of the following labels to indicate they are NEC-approved: EV, EVJ, EVE, EVJE, EVT, or EVJT. Cable management systems are required for all charging cables longer than 25 feet, but it’s considered standard practice to implement cable management systems for shorter lines too.
National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI)
The Biden administration has used federal legislation to solidify its investment in promoting the use of electric vehicles nationwide. In response, the Department of Transportation (DoT) issued guidance for any EV charging systems tapping into the $5 billion in federal funding available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. The NEVI standard covers key topics such as eligible charger types, payment processing, cybersecurity and data privacy practices, and labor rules.
The NEVI standard took full effect on March 30, 2023, regulating EV charging network installation, operation, and maintenance. While these EV charging stations specifications are designed to promote interconnected EV infrastructure along federal highways in particular, they also apply to any EV charging system that makes use of Title 23 federal funds, regardless of location.
Car manufacturer and regional hardware standards
Another category of EV standards creates competition between car manufacturers and among the major manufacturing regions where they operate. These rapid EV charging standards have all been adopted by specific companies in distinct geographical regions. The primary concern is that the hardware standard in use mandates what kind of plug can be used to charge an EV.
- CHAdeMO: Popular in Japan among carmakers like Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota, CHAdeMO was the first rapid charging protocol to spread widely through the EV industry. Its name is a truncation of charge de move, loosely translated to “charge for moving.”
- CCS: The Combo Charging System (CCS) is popular among European car manufacturers like Audi, BMW, and Volkswagen. CCS cables are considered easier to use, in large part because they use the same connectors as AC fast-charging equipment.
- NACS: Tesla’s formerly proprietary technology is widely considered to be superior in terms of the charge it provides; while most rapid charging stations charge at 50 kW, the Tesla Supercharger hits 120 kW. While it was initially available only to Tesla drivers, its conversion to the North American Charging Standard means many other auto manufacturers are set to adopt NACS.
- GB/T: The GB/T standard is used exclusively in China. Thanks to the country’s high rate of EV adoption and intimate familiarity with lithium-ion battery technology, there are more GB/T charging stations installed globally than any of the other standards.
Hardware/software interface standards
There are also a number of standards designed to control the flow of communication between the hardware and software components that facilitate EV charging. Between electric vehicles themselves, the charging stations they plug into, charging network operators, and electrical utilities, there are many parties that need to collaborate clearly to keep EVs on the road. Here are some of the main EV charging station standards to know:
- California Type Evaluation Program (CTEP): CTEP is a state-specific certification managed by the California Department of Food & Agriculture. It is designed to ensure that all EV operators in the state provide a consistent experience and that EV drivers get what they pay for. Every EV charging station in California will be subject to CTEP regulations by January 2033, but many deployments are already expected to be in compliance.
- Open Automated Demand Response (OpenADR): OpenADR balances energy demand during peak times by transmitting information between operators, utilities, and energy management and control systems. The protocol standardizes demand response and distributed energy resources communications, defining the processes that should take place whenever the electrical grid load needs to be reduced.
- Open Charge Point Interface (OCPI): OCPI facilitates communication between EV charging station operators and service providers. The open, automated protocol allows EV drivers to roam from network to network, so they can use any charging station (and see available locations, pricing information, billing updates, and more) without having to download a distinct mobile app or create a new user account at each individual station.
- Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP): OCPP facilitates communication between distinct EV charging stations and a centralized management system. The Open Charge Alliance developed the protocol to encourage infrastructure interoperability, thereby strengthening security measures and reducing operating costs.
- National Electrical Manufacturers Association 4 (NEMA 4): This common standard relates to the physical enclosure used to contain a charging station. If an enclosure is rated NEMA 4, that means it can keep the charger safe and functional outdoors while protecting the equipment from dust, dirt, and water. Earning a NEMA 4X rating means the enclosure is also resistant to corrosion, such as rust.
How to manage multiple EV charging standards
ChargeLab’s charging station management system (CSMS) is designed to satisfy the industry’s leading EV charging station standards and protocols while also providing maximum flexibility. Our white-label, hardware-agnostic solution is designed to scale alongside your EV charging business, while our monitoring and analysis tools empower CMOs to optimize charging station performance. Contact us today to learn more.