Electric vehicles (EVs) are gaining in popularity at a staggering rate. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s EV Outlook, “Over 2 million electric vehicles were sold in 2018, up from just a few thousand in 2010, and there is no sign of slowing down. We expect annual passenger EV sales to rise to 10 million in 2025, 28 million in 2030 and 56 million by 2040.” This growth can be attributed to the decreasing price of batteries, the tightening of air emissions regulations, and the shifting of consumer preferences to “greener” options.
EVs don’t “fill the tank” at the gas pump; they “plug in” to special infrastructure known as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). Installing EVSE is popular at retail businesses because it can lead to an increase in revenue from shoppers. However, there can be benefits for commercial and industrial facilities, too. In this article, we take a look at what EV charging is all about and examine the business case for installing EVSE.
Benefits of Installing EVSE
All types of businesses can benefit from installing EVSE. For retail and residential facilities, providing the amenity of EV charging to customers can strengthen customer loyalty and attract new ones, as well as encourage shoppers to stay longer—and businesses are likely to see increased revenue. For commercial and industrial facilities, with the growing number of EVs on the road, it’s almost certain that some of these drivers are your current or potential employees. In addition, businesses that manage fleet vehicles can look at the EV boom as an opportunity—making the switch to zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs) and installing on-site EVSE can significantly boost their company’s sustainability profile.
Making the Business Case
As a facilities manager, evaluating whether EVSE should be installed should start with a discussion with the facility owner. You should also consider other stakeholders—Human Resources staff, the organization’s sustainability officer, and an employee representative could lend valuable insight to the discussion. EVSE is an investment for the business, and the pros and cons need to be weighed by the leadership team.
It’s hard to know exactly how your business will be impacted by the EV boom. One of the first things to consider is if and when to install EVSE. Collect some data by administering a survey to the occupants of your building. Through the survey, you can collect information about things that can inform your business decision, like how many occupants currently own or plan to buy an EV. Also, information on commuting distances can provide insight into the type of EVSE you may need. Even if you decide not to install EVSE now, you can use the initial survey to plan for the future or reissue the survey at a later date.
Costs are significant, and the financials should be considered carefully. Become informed by performing market research—will you purchase EV charging infrastructure or enter into a partnership, hosting it at your site and sharing in revenue? What increased electricity costs have other facilities experienced? Will you charge a fee for EVSE use, or will it be complimentary?
What type of EVSE you decide to install at your facility matters. There are different types of chargers that, depending on the voltage, can charge an EV battery at different speeds. Installations must comply with the national and local electrical codes, so do some research to see what the options are at your facility.
Level 1 charging is typical for at-home use because it uses a standard 120-volt (V) alternating current (AC) wall outlet to supply power to the EV battery. These chargers are slow, typically fully charging an EV overnight—this may make it impractical for use at a commercial or industrial facility.
Level 2 charging can be used at home, but like a clothes dryer or an oven, it requires a 240 V outlet to supply power to the EV battery. Level 2 charging is popular for commercial applications and adds roughly 25 miles of range per hour (this will vary depending on the specifications of the equipment).
Level 3 charging, commonly referred to as DC fast charging, is used for commercial applications and requires a special high-voltage outlet that the charger plugs into. The charger then internally converts the power from AC to direct current (DC) so that it can directly charge the EV battery. DC fast charging can add 100–250 miles of range per hour. Note that not all vehicles are compatible with DC fast charging, so installing one may limit those who can use it.
The EV Infrastructure: Owner or Host?
Businesses can partner with an EVSE provider like ChargePoint, Blink, EVgo, and Tesla instead of owning the infrastructure. EVSE providers own the equipment and usually perform installation and maintenance activities. This type of partnership may be an ideal solution for your business because the up-front cost is low, and because EVSE providers have specialized knowledge of the EV charging industry, you’ll spend less time and fewer resources navigating a space that is outside your expertise. One downside to this partnership is that you will have to share in the revenue generated from EVSE user fees with the provider company.
Businesses can also purchase commercial EVSE to own from suppliers such as Clipper Creek. If you’re interested in installing more than 20 chargers, the company PowerFlex Systems specializes in large-scale infrastructure solutions. This can be expensive, but you will have full control over the EVSE and can customize infrastructure to suit your business needs.
There may be incentives such as tax credits and rebates available in your area for purchasing and installing EVSE. For Instance, Massachusetts offers a Workplace Charging Program that provides 60% of the hardware costs (up to $50,000) for employers that install EVSE. These programs could add up to significant savings, so do some research on what’s available in your city and state before you start.
With EV charging, your facility’s energy bill will increase. However, not all EV chargers are created equal, and some use less energy than others. For instance, Energy Star®-certified chargers use 40% less energy than a standard EV charger in standby mode. If you’re installing EVSE, it’s recommended that you sub-meter the equipment to easily keep track of energy use. If you would like to track your facility’s energy use, you can use Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager (check out our recent article on how to get started benchmarking).
In Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) v4.1, you may be able to earn points for EVSE. In the Building Design and Construction (BD+C) rating system, a new building project can earn 1 point in the EV credit by installing EVSE (that provides Level 2 Charging of 208–240 V or greater) in 2% of all parking spaces used by the project or at least 2 spaces, whichever is greater. You must also identify and reserve these spaces for the exclusive use of EVs, usually by easily readable signage.
The LEED Operations and Maintenance rating system for existing buildings does not offer the EV credit. However, you can earn up to 14 points through the transportation performance credit. The credit requires that a survey be administered to building occupants, and based on their responses, an estimate of the average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from commuting to and from the building is calculated. The lower the CO2 emissions, the higher the transportation performance score, which is converted to LEED points. Although walking, biking, telecommuting, and rail will contribute to achieving the highest number of LEED points, the use of alternative fuel vehicles (such as EVs) by more building occupants can earn you more points than traditional single-passenger cars. Installing EVSE will encourage the use of alternative fuel vehicles at your facility.