News & Insights

Four Considerations to Meet Public EV Charging Needs

Kaleb Drew, P.E.

Kaleb Drew, P.E.

Electrical Engineer

Jeffrey Elsey, P.E., CAPP, LEED AP

Jeffrey Elsey, P.E., CAPP, LEED AP

Transportation Project Engineer

The Biden administration set two 2030 goals to massively accelerate the electric vehicle (EV) revolution: develop a robust nationwide network of 500,000 EV charging stations and have EVs comprise 50% of new car sales. To meet these ambitious targets, government agencies, utilities, and industries will need to address four primary EV infrastructure development challenges.

Years Before Charging Sites Open, Electrical Capacity is Critical

Electric utilities need to provide sufficient capacity to each charging site according to guidance from programs like the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) plan. The NEVI plan, which will help fund the 500,000 charging stations referenced above, requires interstate and federal highway charging stations that receive funding to be able to charge four vehicles simultaneously.

Federal highway charging stations will largely offer Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFCs) to get drivers on their way quickly. DCFC ports at NEVI locations will require at least four 150 kilowatts (kW) chargers. Newer charging technologies can deliver even more charging power at 350kW, while future chargers will target 1,000kW. The chart below shows how Level 1, Level 2, and DCFC chargers compare in power output and charging speed.

Level 1 Level 2 DCFC (Level 3)
Typical power output
7 – 19 kW
50 – 350 kW
Estimated charge time from empty
(battery electric vehicle)
40 – 50 hours
4 – 5 hours
20 – 60 minutes1
1 “To 80 percent charge. Charging speed slows as the battery gets closer to full to prevent damage to the battery. Therefore, it is more cost- and time-efficient for EV drivers to use direct current (DC) fast charging until the battery reaches 80 percent, and then continue on their trip. It can take about as long to charge the last 10 percent of an EV battery as the first 90 percent.”
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation

In layman’s terms, a Level 1 charger has the power demand of one microwave oven. Residential charging is the main application for this level when cars will be parked for long stretches. Level 2 chargers are roughly equivalent to between five and 15 microwaves, and are most often at homes, office buildings, and retail locations where vehicles will charge for up to a few hours. In comparison, DCFCs consume the equivalent power of up to 240 microwaves. They most commonly charge vehicles near highways or in short-visit retail locations.

Planning for sufficient electrical capacity at each site, from available electricity generation to the substation, distribution lines, and onsite transformers will be critical far before 2030 or the dates when charging stations open. Without the necessary electrical capacity at a site, deployment of charging equipment can lag months or years, with difficult lead times to obtain transformers and switchgear serving as the electrical interface with the utility. Larger sites, such as Class 8 truck charging facilities or fleet parking areas, require even more time to plan and coordinate with utilities.

Site Selection Requires a Data-driven Approach

In December of 2023, the US had 60,000 public Level 2 and DCFC stations, according to the Department of Energy. Those provide about 158,000 charging ports. However, S&P Global Mobility forecasts that by 2030, the US will need 2.13 million Level 2 and 172,000 DCFC public charging ports—nearly 15 times today’s total number.

In other words, the US will need to install more charging ports annually between now and 2030 than what exists in total today. This begs the question: what’s the best way for retailers, gas stations, convenience stores, restaurants, and municipalities to decide where to install chargers? Public- and private-sector decision-makers will need more than common sense to determine the placement of charging stations. They’ll need to consider high-traffic streets, proximity to highways, population density, residents’ income, equity, government subsidies, trip profiles, electrical capacity, and more.

Future-proofing Delivers High ROI

Retailers, parking facility developers, and campuses are among the early movers installing EV chargers. They can justify the business case based on near-term revenue with even a small number of chargers.

Many others have also already invested in the coming EV charger boom, even though their work is nearly invisible. Leading organizations have prepared for the next five to 10 years by sizing and installing panels, circuit breakers, and underground conduits to support future EV charging equipment. When demand increases for more charger units and plugs, they will simply need to add equipment to tie into the existing infrastructure.

On the other hand, those needing to add entirely new systems to expand charging capabilities will incur significantly higher costs—up to six times the price of the original units plus installation. Not only will EV charging equipment prices increase, but so will construction and permitting costs.

Beyond upgrading the electrical infrastructure for the facility, another big “X” factor is the other work to get facilities up to code. For example, if developers have to rip up concrete for electrical lines, they will likely have to invest in upgrades across the facility.

Identifying the Right Equipment Vendor for
Your Locations

The expansion of the EV charging industry brought established suppliers and new entrants offering differentiators to capture market share. The myriad of options can make for an overwhelming evaluation process that entails several steps:

  • Determine the functionality of the charger location by asking the following questions: What should the user experience be? Is the interface clear and easy to use? What capabilities are essential, and which bells and whistles are unnecessary?
  • Create service and maintenance provisions to cover not only which party is responsible, but also the service level agreements, for when chargers break.
  • Build pricing options to include costs for the equipment, installation, service, and maintenance.

These criteria often overlap. For instance, a nationwide retailer may balance EV equipment vendor costs with the ease of payment, the opportunity to display ads on the screen, or the promised equipment uptime.

Beyond these four considerations, developers will need plans to re-design sites and facilities to accommodate EV chargers. Only a holistic approach will provide a path for municipalities and companies to scale EV charger growth with government goals and public demand.

About the Authors

Kaleb Drew, P.E.

Kaleb Drew, P.E.

Kaleb is a licensed electrical engineer and power system consultant with more than 10 years of experience supporting utility, commercial, and government clients. He solves complex electrical design problems, including distributed generation, bulk electric vehicle charging infrastructure, energy storage, backup power, and operational and safety improvement studies. He supports numerous clients in carbon emission reduction, renewable generation expansion, and electric vehicle fleet conversions. His deep knowledge of power system analysis software tools including ETAP, SKM, PSCAD, and EMTP-RV lends itself to the development of innovative electrical infrastructure plans to maximize uptime and reduce safety risks.

Jeffrey Elsey, P.E., CAPP, LEED AP

Jeffrey Elsey, P.E., CAPP, LEED AP

Jeffrey is a parking and mobility strategist specializing in transportation systems infrastructure investments and financial evaluations. He sits on the National Parking Association’s Parking Consultants Council and has worked with large municipalities and campuses throughout the country to develop long-term parking and transportation capital and programmatic strategies targeted to enhance system efficiencies, financial performance, and customer satisfaction.


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