There are many considerations that need to be made when installing EV charging stations. Similar to other construction projects, there are a lot of ways the job can go. Without proper planning, the EV charging station project can result in missed expectations.
To avoid this, careful planning and considerations must be made before the install. One of the easiest ways to ensure the EV charging station project gets done properly is to work with an EV charging consultant.
Among other services, we can help plan and coordinate the job to meet the needs of both today and tomorrow. Without prior experience, it is very likely to make missteps that result in additional project cost and time.
To help avoid this, here are 16 considerations when planning for EV charging stations.
Location. Location. Location. One of the very first considerations to make when planning for EV charging stations is where to locate them.
Unfortunately, there’s a double-edge sword when it comes to the location. Installing them close to the building results in the lowest installation cost. To elaborate, the shorter run from the electrical panel means less trenching, conduit, wire, etc.
However, parking stalls closest to the building are the most frequently used. Therefore, they are likely to be used by non-EV vehicles. This is known as ICEing. ICE stands for Internal Combustion Engine.
While signage, striping, and site management can deter the blocking of the EV charging stations, it is still vulnerable to mis-use.
For public charging stations, installing EV charging stations near main roads or driver line of sight is critical for usage. If the chargers are located in the back corner of a parking lot, they may not get used since they are difficult to find.
2. Number of Plugs
Another major consideration to make when planning for EV charging stations is the number of plugs. This can be a challenging task as the most cost effective approach is to plan for both the needs of today and tomorrow.
For example, if a workplace currently has five EV drivers, then it is likely that other employees will switch to electric in the near future. Therefore, it would be wise to not just install five chargers, but a little bit more to accommodate for the needs of the future.
Additionally, if an office is looking to convert the fleet to electric vehicles, then it should plan the correct amounts of plugs to accommodate the office fleet in addition to any employee use.
A great way to determine how many plugs are needed is to survey the office. This is one of many services an EV charging consultant can assist with.
3. Power Rating
Each charger varies in power output. Typically, most Level 2 (208/240 Volt) EV charging stations provide 7.7 kilowatts (kW) via a 40 ampere (amp or A) circuit. Simply put without all the technical units, most chargers provide around 25 miles of range per hour.
Of course there are two other factors at play: the vehicle efficiency and the vehicle’s max AC charging rate.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), can sometimes only charge at a max rate 3.8 kW. On the other hand, all-electric cars, or Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), can typically charge at 7.7 kW or greater.
Depending on how much power is available to the site, how fast the vehicles need to charge at, and which type of vehicles need to charge will very well dictate which type of charging station is needed.
In most cases, a 7.7 kW charger will be sufficient.
4. Dual Port
Charging stations are available in single port or dual port configurations. As you can guess, a single port charger only has one plug, whereas, a dual port has two.
The reason why this needs to be considered when planning for EV charging stations is for cost implications. The cost increase for a dual port charger is marginal compared to a single port charger. Therefore, it is much more cost effective to install dual port chargers in between two EV stalls rather than a series of single port chargers at every stall.
If this is considered and there are several EV stalls, then the total hardware and installation cost could be significantly decreased. Dual port chargers mean less conduit, trenching, wire, hardware, and overall install time.
5. Load Management
Another way to decrease the total cost for installing EV charging stations is to utilize chargers that have a load management system.
Without a load management system, each and every charger needs its own dedicated circuit. This can be cost prohibitive as each charger needs its own circuit (wire and breaker). Additionally, if there is not enough room in the electrical panel for all the additional circuits, then a panel and/or service upgrade is needed. These can be rather expensive.
On the other hand, with a load management system, the charger intelligently shares the circuit with a few others and limits the power output to never exceed the limits of the circuit.
In other words, two to four ports can share a single 40 A circuit. When a single car plugs in it is able to charge at the full rate of 40 A. When two cars plug into these series of chargers, then they share the circuit with 20 A each. This continues up to four cars on one single circuit.
As you can tell, this is another way to reduce cost as less electrical is needed. The only reason when this would not be a good idea is when you need each and every car to charge at the full rate. However, in most cases, this is not needed.
As with any product, there are many different manufacturers. Each manufacturer adds their spin on the product through styling, quality, or features.
Above all, it is important to select a charger from a reputable manufacturer with the proper third party safety certifications.
Additionally, it would be wise to select buy products from a manufacturer that is known to provide both a quality product and service. Some manufacturers only offer a one year product warranty, while others provide up to three years.
Typically, EV charging stations don’t need much servicing throughout their life, but it’s good to know some manufacturers stand behind their product for more than just one year.
After that, then the charger features and styling should be reviewed for final consideration. In general, most chargers provide the same features within their smart or networked product line. More on this topic later.
Planning for ADA (American Disabilities Act) considerations is critical in order to get a permit. Accessibility requirements can add to the project scope of work as well as alter design.
Depending on a series of factors, larger stalls and accessible loading aisles could be required. Furthermore, an accessible path of travel (wide sidewalks, ramps, handrails, etc.) could also be required to each accessible charging station.
The project designer should navigate this part for you before you submit plans to the building department, however it is good to know ahead of time to set the right expectations.
This is especially important since it could very well add to the total cost of the EV charging station project.
8. Future Expansion
Planning for EV charging stations today is a challenging task. Without a crystal ball, it is hard to determine how many chargers you need today as well as the days of tomorrow. It is cost prohibitive to install a couple charging stations to only shortly later come back, re-trench, add additional conduit, upgrade the electrical panel, all to just add a few more chargers.
Instead, certain design considerations could be made today to facilitate the needs of tomorrow without breaking the bank.
For example, stubbing a conduit and junction boxes at future EV stalls cost very little when trenches are already open.
Or selecting chargers that have a load management system so they can be paired with future chargers without the need of a new circuit is another future-proof design technique.
Currently, only 3% of new cars sold today are EVs, however, analysts predict that by 2028 that percentage will increase to around 18%. Perhaps that crystal ball forecast will help you decide how many future charging stations you will need for your site.
9. Cable Management
While designed for continuous use for any weather event, the charging cables can take a beating over the years. This is especially true when the charging cable is left on the ground and is stepped on or driven over.
Most chargers just have a simple hook for users to replace the cable when they are done. The fact is, many people will just leave it coiled on the ground. In addition to the heavy wear, this can create a tripping hazard.
After a while, the thick insulation that keeps the hot wire from short circuit or shocking a person may wear beyond its useful life and need replacement.
A way to prevent this is to select an EV charging station that has a cable management system. With a cable management system, the cable is automatically pulled back to the charger via a safety cord.
This system neatly keeps the cable from ever touching the ground. Without ever getting stepped on and driven over, a cable management system should prolong the life of the cable for many, many years.
There are two types of signs: required and owner discretion. Required signage include ADA and/or safety. Discretionary signage is completely up to the site host.
This signage can help direct drivers of where the charging stations are located, who can charge there, and for how long they can charge there. There are a lot of different ways these discretionary signage can go.
For example, if the site host wanted to restrict charger use to no more than four hours, then a sign at the charger can help enforce that rule.
Alternatively, if a site host wanted to only allow hotel guests and not the general public to use the charging station, then a sign can help deter unwanted visitors.
Similar to signage, striping is also very discretionary to the site host. In certain jurisdictions and definitely with ADA stalls, there are strict striping requirements. However, in other cases, the site host may wish to add a bit of styling to the EV stall.
This additional striping can deter non-EV drivers from parking in the stall and/or help identify the stall to EV drivers looking for a charging station.
12. Public Access
For commercial and retail sites, ensuring public access is critical for the success of the charging station. Most likely the primary reason to install EV charging stations at commercial and retail locations is to attract customers.
If EV drivers have any issues with the chargers, such as difficulty finding them or inability to initiate a charging session, they may look elsewhere for their shopping needs. To combat this, it is highly recommended to install chargers near easy-to-spot parking stalls.
As mentioned previously, if the parking stall is easily accessible, it would be great to add signage and striping deterring non-EV drivers from parking in that particular stall. Additionally, selecting a charging station with simple and easy initiation will help increase public use.
No matter if it is free or not, if the user cannot start a session, they are unlikely to return to try again. With the crowd-source charging station app, Plugshare, other fellow EV drivers are soon to find out, too.
13. Electricity Cost
One major consideration when planning for EV charging stations is whether or not the station will be free to use. After the charger(s) are installed, there are three operational costs: electricity, maintenance, and software (for networked charging stations–see #15).
These costs can add up over the months, especially with high usage. The site host should give careful thought to who will pay for electricity. Some charging stations can require payment to recoup the cost of electricity (as well as maintenance and software fees).
While most EV drivers do not expect chargers to be free (while many are free to attract/retain customers or employees), requiring too much money can leave the charger in cobwebs.
There is definitely a balance as to how much can be charged for a session.
14. Plug Type
Currently, there are four types of EV charging plugs: J1772, CCS, ChaDeMO, and Tesla. The J1772 is the universal standard for Level 2 charging. This plug is found at nearly every public and private charger.
The other plugs are used either for DC Fast Chargers. The Tesla plug is specifically only for Tesla vehicles as it is proprietary.
Tesla does make Level 2 chargers with their own plug. If this charger is selected, be aware only Tesla vehicles can used this charger. Other EVs may use the Tesla Level 2 charger, however, they will need an expensive adapter, which is unlikely for most non-Tesla EV drivers.
15. Network Fees
As aforementioned, there are two types of Level 2 chargers: network and non-network. Network chargers have are considered smart since they are internet connected and are software updated. With this smart capability, they have many more features than regular non-networked chargers. For example, networked chargers can do the following:
- control payment schedule
- control user access
- control hours of operation
- control session duration limit
- create charger wait lists
- provide charger usage data
- alert site host of maintenance/repair issues
- include load management system
- and much more
While all of these features are great to have, they do cost extra. In general manufacturers charge around $150-300/charger/year for software fees.
These fees are required in order to use the networked charger. If the site host no longer wants to pay for the software fees, they must replace the charger (hardware) entirely.
Fortunately, networked chargers can require payment to cover the cost of electricity, maintenance, and software fees. If planned correctly, all of these costs can be passed off to the user.
16. Dedicated EV Meter
One great way to save some money on the cost of electricity is to install a dedicated EV meter. Some electric utilities offer meters for the sole use of EVs. These meters are able to utilize a much cheaper rate schedule than typical residential or commercial rates. As such, the cost of electricity to the charging stations would be cheaper.
For sites that pay for the electricity rather than the driver, this could be hundreds, if not, thousands of dollars of savings over the course of the year. For a added construction fee for the new meter and panel, it could be very well worth the investment.
Additionally, if apartment complex or business want to track the electricity consumption of the charging stations, a dedicated meter would be the easiest way to track this usage. Networked charging stations can also do this, however, non-networked chargers are not able to track consumption.
The last consideration when planning for EV charging stations is maintenance. As discussed briefly, there are some maintenance costs over the life of the chagrin station. While these costs are generally minimal, they still should be planned for.
If the selected charger is a networked charger, payment can be required. This payment can add in a little extra for future maintenance.
As you can see, there are many, many considerations when planning for EV charging stations. If planned correctly, these chargers can greatly benefit the property. Whether the site is an apartment complex, workplace, or commercial store, EV charging stations can attract/retain employees/residents/customers.
If any of this is just too complicated, but you and/or your business are interested in installing EV charging stations, then feel free to reach out to us for a free consultation. We’ll discuss how we can help and accomplish your charging needs.
We can even serve as the project manager and coordinate the entire job on your behalf saving you valuable time and money. Get started today for free!
Hi there! I’m the founder and project manager at Charged Future: the EV charging consultancy. Charged Future helps businesses achieve their EV charging goals. Specifically, I serve as the project manager for your EV charging project, which can save you both time and money! Additionally, I can search and apply to all eligible rebate applications, which can typically cover a large portion of the project cost.