There are many options for charging electric vehicles today, from at home or at work to along the highway during a road trip. While it's often convenient to charge at home, there are over 350 public charging plugs in Portland - and more on the way.
Electric vehicle charging 101
There are three main types of chargers that you will encounter: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 (also called DC Fast Charging):
Level 1 charging uses a standard 120V outlet that you are likely to find in your garage. This is the slowest type of charging and will add an average of 5 miles per hour of charge. Also called “trickle charging,” this type of charging is not offered commercially and is typically only used at home.
Level 2 charging requires a 240V outlet. These chargers can be installed in your home with a basic electrical upgrade and are very commonly used for public chargers. Level 2 chargers add 20 to 60 miles per hour of charge.
Level 3 chargers, or DC Fast Chargers, are only used in commercial settings. These chargers are most often found along highways since they provide 60 to 100 miles per 20 minutes of charge. For example, the West Coast Electric Highway project is working to install DC Fast Chargers every 25 to 50 miles from the British Columbia to the Mexico border.
If you’re able to charge at home, that is likely the easiest and most affordable option. If not, the City is working to expand public charging opportunities, with a focus on providing more convenient, safe and affordable chargers near multi-unit dwellings and commercial centers. Many workplaces also offer EV chargers in company parking lots or garages, so don’t forget to check with your employer when considering your charging options.
Public charging in Portland
Portland has worked with private sector partners to provide convenient, accessible charging for drivers since 2011 when Electric Avenue opened in downtown Portland, one of the nation’s first fast charging pods in the public right-of-way. The City has continued working to expand opportunities to charge since then, most recently with a new policy that is being developed to permit the installation of EV chargers in the public right-of-way in areas across the city.
There are several maps you can use to find available public charging stations and sort by network, connector type, power supply, price, and other filters. A few that are useful to be familiar with include the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, Plugshare, and ChargePoint.
How to use public chargers
How to charge your electric vehicle:
1. Locate charger of the correct plug type and speed
2. Make sure you can access the network
3. Park in the appropriate spot next to the charger
4. Follow instructions to plug the charger into your vehicle
5. Start the charge and relax!
6. Keep an eye on your charging app so you can move your car once the charge is complete
There are many vendors that manage public charging stations. The requirements for use vary by vendor, and while you might not need to be a paid member to use a vendor’s station, you do often need to have their mobile app downloaded. Often, becoming a member and using the vendor’s mobile app to facilitate charging offers a slight discount when you use that station. You should prepare to join at least one network but if you intend to rely heavily on public charging, you may want to consider registering with multiple vendors. Many vendors are making agreements to allow their users to “roam” freely by charging for no additional cost at another vendor’s station, so check your network’s roaming partners before registering elsewhere. Additionally, if you are planning a road trip, you might want to consider joining a network that focuses heavily on fast chargers along highway systems in the area where you will be traveling. The membership details for the most common EV charging vendors in Portland are below. The City of Portland does not endorse any of the vendors on this list. This list is solely for informational purposes, not for promotion: Chargepoint, Blink, Sema Charge, Tesla, Volta, OP Connect, EV Connect, Electrify America, Greenlots, and EVgo.
Home charging with a garage or driveway
The most common place to charge an EV is at home, and it’s often the least expensive.
If you live in a home with a garage or driveway you can charge your EV using a standard wall outlet, also known as Level 1 charging. This is a good option if you typically charge your EV overnight. You can also install a Level 2 charger for your personal use, which will charge your EV in a few hours. Level 2 chargers use 240 volts of electricity, which is similar to a standard electric dryer or oven and sometimes requires a simple electrical upgrade to your home. Before going forward with the electrical upgrade required for a Level 2 charger, you must apply for an electrical permit from the Bureau of Development Services.
Don’t forget to check for incentives or rebates – as of January 2023, Portland General Electric and Pacific Power customers are eligible for a rebate of up to $1,000 for installing an EV charger in their home. Additionally, the Inflation Reduction Act extended the federal tax credit on charging equipment through 2032, which covers up to 30% of sales price up to $1,000.
Home charging without a garage or driveway
To support residents who want to transition to an EV but do not have a garage or driveway, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has amended the Encroachment Manual to allow residents to run a Level 1 (110 volt) charging cord from their house and across the sidewalk to charge their EV at the curb, provided that their residence meets the specifications listed below in the cord cover allowance section.
Individual residents and businesses are prohibited from installing EV chargers in the public right-of-way. Given a variety of concerns - including health, life, and safety issues, liability concerns, state utility requirements, and more - this means Portlanders are prohibited from installing a Level 2 or DC fast charger curbside in front of their home or business. There are no exceptions to this and no process for appeals. Additionally, no public parking spaces are allowed to be reserved by private citizens for the purpose of EV charging, including for the cord cover allowance.
PBOT is currently developing policy to support public EV charging in commercial areas across Portland by permitted EV charging companies and local utilities, which would better support residents who are unable to charge at home. While that policy is being developed, PBOT is not issuing permits to install EV chargers in the public right-of-way.
Both public charging and workplace charging are valuable options for residents without garages or driveways at home. You can view all public charging stations in the area on this map and contact your workplace to see if there is charging availability there.
Cord cover allowance
In response to the many residents who have inquired about charging their electric vehicle curbside in front of their home, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has amended the Encroachment Manual to allow curbside charging with a cord cover in specific circumstances. Both renters and property owners are now allowed to run a Level 1 charging cord from their house and across the sidewalk area adjacent to their residence to charge their electric vehicle at the curb, provided that they use an ADA compliant cord cover. Parking spaces in front of residences may not be reserved for charging, and use of signage or other means to reserve the parking space in front of property is strictly prohibited and may be subject to penalties and fines pursuant to PBOT’s administrative rules. Cord covers must be used if there is a sidewalk or other hardscape walkable surface, such as concrete, pavement, or stone pavers, present in the area between your property line and the curb. Curbside charging with a cord cover is allowed by right if residents meet all the requirements below, meaning that no permit is required. Full details of the policy can be found in the Encroachment Manual.
Home charging in an apartment, condo, or other multiunit dwelling
If you live in an apartment building or other multiunit dwelling, the City of Portland is working to make EV charging accessible for you, too.
Building managers, owners, and homeowner’s associations can add EV charging to existing parking at multi-unit dwellings. If you’re not sure where to start, local nonprofit Forth Mobility helped assemble a roadmap to help guide the retrofit process of adding EV chargers in multi-unit dwellings.
Charging stations at multi-unit dwellings may also be eligible for incentives or rebates. As of January 2023, both local utilities Portland General Electric and Pacific Power offer their customers rebates for multi-unit dwelling charger installations.
The City is always looking ahead to find new ways to make transportation electrification easier, especially for Portlanders who cannot charge at home. One way this is happening is through the EV Ready Code Project, led by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. This project, currently under development, is crafting policy to ensure that new multi-unit dwelling and mixed-use developments with more than five units that include onsite parking will be built “EV Ready.” This means that electrical conduit will be installed in the parking area during construction to make the eventual installation of EV chargers cheaper and faster.
Charging your e-bike
E-bikes are becoming increasingly common on Portland’s streets and are a great electric mobility option that support the City’s climate and mode shift goals.
New models of e-bikes continue to enter the market, and their battery capacity ranges from 20 miles to 120 miles on a single charge. E-bikes can charge using a normal 120-volt outlet, so most people are able to charge their e-bike at home. However, recognizing that not all Portlanders can charge their e-bikes at home, PBOT included a requirement that 5% of bike parking must be near an outlet in a 2019 bike parking code update project.
There are also public charging opportunities for e-bikes across the state. The Oregon Department of Transportation upgraded all forty-seven charging stations along the West Coast Electric Highway in fall/winter 2022 to include a 120-volt outlet to provide free e-bike charging. The West Coast Electric Highway includes Interstate 5, Highway 101, and other major driving routes in Oregon and charging stations are available every 25 to 50 miles along the network.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: I live in an apartment building and want to buy an EV. What are my options for charging?
Answer: Some apartment buildings that have onsite parking, either in a parking lot or a garage, have installed EV chargers for their tenants. Reach out to your property manager or landlord to see what options are available in your situation.
If you’re unable to charge at home, there are still many opportunities to charge at public stations in Portland. Think about the places you drive regularly and look up public charging stations on this map from Plugshare. Many grocery stores, like Fred Meyer and New Seasons, have fast charging stations in their parking lot which will allow you to charge up while doing your weekly grocery shopping.
Finally, you can reach out to your employer and see if there are existing EV chargers are your workplace or, if not, you can advocate for their installation.
Question: I live in a single-family home without a garage or driveway. How do I charge my EV?
Answer: The Portland Bureau of Transportation recently updated a policy to allow for charging curbside in front of your house if you meet certain conditions. The cord cover allowance in the Encroachment Manual allows for individuals that live in a single-family residential zone and on a local service traffic street with a running grade of 10% or less to run a Level 1 (110 – 120 volt) extension cord from their property across the sidewalk to their car parked at the curb, provided that an ADA compliant cord cover is used.
You can find out if you live in a single-family residential zone using this map.
You can find out if you live on a local service traffic street using this map.
You can find the running grade of your sidewalk using this map.
You can find examples of ADA compliant cord covers under the section titled “Home Charging Without a Garage or Driveway” on this webpage.
Please note that this allowance only allows Level 1 charging cords, not Level 2 or higher charging cords, to be run across the sidewalk. It also does not allow for residents to reserve parking spaces specifically for their personal charging use. If you would like to consult the full rule, the full text of cord cover allowance can be found in Section C.22 of the Encroachment Manual.
Question: Can the Cord Cover allowance include L2 cords, not just L1?
Answer: Given a variety of concerns – including health, life, and safety issues, liability concerns and more – Portlanders are prohibited from using a Level 2 (220 – 240 volt) or higher voltage cord to charge curbside under the cord cover allowance. Only Level 1 cords (110 – 120 volt) extension cords can be used at this time.
Question: Can I install a 220 – 240-volt outlet with outdoor rated conduit underneath the sidewalk and into the furnishing zone to charge my vehicle curbside in front of my home?
Answer: At this time, the installation of an outlet in the public right-of-way by an individual resident is prohibited. There are several factors that contributed to this decision, including health, life, and safety issues, liability concerns, and state utility location requirements, among others. Additionally, private citizens are prohibited from installing infrastructure for their private use in the public right-of-way, which would essentially privatize a public space. This private asset in a public space also raises several difficult policy questions, including who is responsible for the asset if the owner relocates.
Question: Can I install a L2/DC fast pedestal charger curbside in front of my residence for personal use?
Answer: At this time, only utilities and charging companies that meet City requirements will be allowed to install EV chargers in the public right-of-way, not businesses, private groups, or individual residents. There are several factors that contributed to this decision, including health, life, and safety issues, liability concerns; and, state utility location requirements, among others. Additionally, private citizens are generally prohibited from installing infrastructure for their private use in the public right-of-way, which could essentially privatize a public space. Having private assets in a public space also raises several difficult policy questions, including who is responsible for the asset if the owner relocates.
Another concern is that the infrastructural requirements of siting charging stations and the multidisciplinary coordination necessary to connect to the grid and install the asset in a public space are complex and costly and present substantial barriers. While navigating this space and financing the process might be attainable for some individuals, groups, or businesses, it is not attainable for all and could exclude many Portlanders.
Question: Can I install a Level 2 or DC fast pedestal charger curbside in front of my residence or business if I allow it to be used by the public?
Answer: At this time, that is not permitted. In addition to the concerns listed in the above answer, the challenges presented by privately-owned, publicly available infrastructure in public spaces are numerous and difficult to reconcile. Many difficult policy questions are raised by a privately-owned, publicly available asset in public space: who is responsible for maintaining the charger in a state of good repair; should the City cite the owner if a charger remains out-of-service for an unreasonable amount of time; who is responsible for the asset if the owner relocates; and, who sets and collects the parking meter and charging rate. While these questions may have conceivable answers, considering the other barriers to participation in the program, PBOT has decided that limiting the permit to the charging station vendors who are best equipped to navigate and finance this process creates a practical regulatory environment to effectively manage the program.