Top Five Considerations When Planning Your EV Charging Infrastructure
The U.S. government is preparing for a major push. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), also referred to as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), includes $7.5 billion to accelerate EV adoption. For example, billions of dollars will help build a nationwide EV charging infrastructure network along U.S. interstates and federal highways. All 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, will receive funds to build charging stations no more than every 50 miles. Further guidance and funding will come for local EV charging stations in the near future.
For developers, new EV chargers show their commitment to sustainability and give them a competitive edge. Furthermore, they unlock new revenue opportunities. Studies show that EV chargers attract:
- Shoppers to retail locations
- Professionals and businesses to office buildings and business parks
- Residents to multifamily developments.
Once EV chargers are installed, developers can earn money from these groups by charging for access to parking spots and/or gaining a share of advertising revenue from charging stations.
At the ULI Fall Meeting 2022, I moderated a panel about:
- The impact of EV demand
- Challenges and benefits of implementing EV charging stations
- Emerging technology
- Ways to save costs.
The panelists shared five key takeaways for developers to consider as they plan, build, and maintain their EV charging infrastructure.
Plan For All Your Vehicle Electrification Needs
As Rachel Yoka, CAPP, chief strategy officer for International Parking & Mobility Institute (IPMI) said, “There’s more to electrification than the single-occupant vehicle. Take the time now to plan beyond charging needs for residents and shoppers and assess your development for opportunities for additional mobility modes.” Developers need to also consider charging needs for:
- Cargo bicycles
- Fleet vehicles
States and localities may offer incentives to install charging equipment for a number of these. Planning for all of them from the beginning allows developers to have the proper electrical capacity on site. Once installed, the variety attracts visitors who will arrive however they prefer.
Disclose your EV charging plans with all partners
Developers, local governments, EV charging suppliers, and utilities benefit from communication and alignment. Take the case of charger infrastructure plans for one year versus five years. Jennifer Deaton, manager of corporate strategy and electrification at Oncor Electric Delivery, said that sharing the short-term plan only can lead to a rebuild after you share the five-year plan.
“It’s really important to bring your entire vision to the utility up front,” Deaton said. “In any way we can, we right-size that equipment and then only do that construction once. You can grow into your equipment to a certain extent.” Critically, she added, “Transformer lead times can be long and we want to be as proactive as we can.”
Rick Baker, executive vice president of charging solutions at Volta, said, “Make-ready is always the cheapest way… If it’s make-renovation ready, be prepared that your costs are 3-5x higher.”
Know The Local Regulations
National and local regulations can trip up even the biggest developers and EV charging companies. At a national level, for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to EV parking spots. Yoka called the ADA “complex and evolving” and cautioned that, “ADA regulations stipulate that your EVSE [electric vehicle service equipment] will have to be accessible for all patrons.”
At a local level, Baker said, “AHJs [authorities having jurisdiction] are huge. They have all kinds of restrictions in municipalities.” For example, he said local governments dictate the locations of charging stations that display media, such as advertisements. Therefore, builders must get ahead of zoning and permitting codes before construction begins.
Identify Your Use Cases and Customer Experiences
Developers must consider how people will use EV chargers. First, “What kind of experience do you want to provide to your customer?” asked Baker. “Then, what kind of business decision are you making around this?”
“Knowing your use case for the chargers is a great first step,” said Deaton of Oncor. She explained that a school district charging buses over long periods has vastly different needs than a convenience store where customers stop for 15-30 minutes. Similarly, Baker noted that movie theaters don’t need fast charging since the vehicle’s charge could be completed by the time of the opening credits.
Second, electricity connections and site layout heavily influence the location of EV charging equipment. Yoka said, “Where to put it, I think, is the biggest question of the day.” Baker explained that locating EV charging stations behind a grocery store may be the cheapest location if that’s the area closest to existing electrical equipment, but it could decrease customer utilization and the perception of safety and sustainability.
Stay Informed Because Technology Will Change
Baker contrasted today’s iPhone with phones that existed 20 years ago. Similarly, he said, “Depending on the technology you choose for EV adoption, we are nowhere near where it’s going to be in five years and nowhere near where it’s going to be in 10 years.”
He counseled that the lower price of new EVs will bring new scales of adoption. Baker said it’s essential to know what utilities and cities are doing to promote EV adoption, and to stay current on the latest charging developments in both urban environments like New York and rural experiences such as West Texas. “Whatever is important to your client becomes important to you,” he said.
Both Deaton and Yoka offered several resources. Deaton said utility websites offer a wealth of information on “all things electrification.” These include resources on fleet total cost of ownership, solar and battery connections to the grid, and energy efficiency programs.
Panelists also suggested following the news through Google Alerts and newsletters such as InsideEVs. EVs will continue to appear in mainstream media daily as they upend the automotive industry and drive new infrastructure investments.
Contact Ryan Gram to learn more about preparing sites for EV charging equipment and collaborating with partners across the EV ecosystem.
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