They’re popping up outside of businesses everywhere as electric car sales rise – with no signs of slowing. It is estimated that by the year 2025, 25% of vehicles sold in the United Stated will be electric. Still, there is plenty of head scratching surrounding electric vehicle (EV) charging stations – their installation, costs, and use, particularly for businesses.
“Generally, our commercial clients are interested in reducing energy costs through energy efficiency,” explains Rob Holdsworth, Vice President of Engineering for Evolution Energy Partners, “so we field a lot of questions about charging stations relative to the potential for costs savings.”
Viewed through a financial lens, EV charging stations are a bit of an outlier compared to other commercial energy savings measures. Like most strides toward efficiency, the stations require significant capital outlay. Unlike other energy efficiency measures, though, electric vehicle charging stations don’t necessary “pay for themselves” in the long run – at least not financially.
“The financial value proposition for electric charging stations – the immediate and even long-term fiscal returns – is not well defined in terms of how a company benefits,”Rob Holdsworth, Vice President of Engineering for Evolution Energy Partners
The choice to install charging stations, he points out, is generally driven by a larger ethos and effort to prioritize energy reduction – in the case of electric charging stations, by moving away from fossil fuels. In fact, by giving away kilowatt hours to cars that plug in and fuel up, some businesses actually lose money on the investment (charging users for electric power is a choice that’s falling out of favor). Still, this financial reality is acceptable to companies who focus on the environmental big picture, not to mention the business value and caché that’s tougher to quantify.
“Electric vehicle charging stations reduce carbon footprints, make a statement about a business’s environmental stance, and can make a property more attractive to patrons, tenants, and employees,” Holdsworth notes. “For many businesses, that’s all the incentive they need.”
Before moving forward with EV charging stations, though, companies need to ensure that the decision makes sense on all fronts, include financially. For starters, what will installation cost? The answer depends largely on a property’s location.
“Rebates and grants vary dramatically from state to state, meaning the net cost of installation varies greatly,” Holdsworth explains. “Look into the specifics for your state, and consider a company like Evolution Energy Partners that handles rebate and incentive paperwork for you, even covering the difference between real costs and post-reimbursement costs if needed.”
Holdsworth also suggests early conversations about charging station guidelines. Will stations be first come, first serve? Are charging hours supervised and/or capped? Are stations accessible overnight? Businesses offering kilowatt hours to the public, rather than to employees exclusively, should also consider the realities of managing the process.
“If you’re a high-traffic commercial business, like a movie theater or convenience store, a charging station that’s available for public use is generally not advised. Large businesses with heavy populations often give away more electric than anticipated, and end up playing managers to pumps that experience ongoing wait times and endure chronic use.”
Usage questions lead to more critical questions about capacity, ie. power. EV charging stations come in two load types: Level 1 and Level 2. Level 1 stations cost less to install and can run off of lower voltage (they plug into standard 120-volt outlets), often eliminating the need for electrical upgrades prior to installation. However, Holdsworth advises against Level 1 chargers for commercial applications.
“With a Level 1 charger, it takes about 20 hours to fully charge a vehicle, whereas Level 2 can get the job done in a fraction of that time – generally three hours or so.”
Finally, consider variables that stand to have the most impact on upfront costs. This and all considerations are explored exhaustively in Evolution Energy’s Energy Efficiency audits.
“Unfortunately, one of the biggest, most unexpected roadblocks for companies interested in EV charging stations is the distance from the station’s desired location to an electrical juncture.”
The longer the distance, the more trenching that’s needed to lay necessary copper wire. If trenching across concrete, the surface will need to be repaved when the job is done. These factors can drastically increase labor and material costs. That said, companies willing to endure said costs have options for getting the most from their investment.
“The majority of costs for installation aren’t related to the station itself, but to necessary labor. In light of that, maximize your dollars by considering fewer stations with more plugs. One Evolution Energy client in New Jersey couldn’t justify the cost of four stations, so instead installed two stations with two plugs each, essentially cutting labor in half with little impact on performance.”
Interested in charging stations for your business? Evolution Energy performs a full audit, reviewing all energy loads and advising in your business’s best interest. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.