- EVs make up a small portion of the U.S. vehicle fleet, but analysts believe they're poised for growth.
- Charging stations may present a long-term investment opportunity for your business.
- Charging equipment is expensive, but a variety of state and local financial incentives are available.
Are electric vehicles (EVs) poised to take off? There are currently more than 540,000 EVs on the road in the U.S., according to ChargePoint. While that's only a small percent of the total vehicle fleet, the number of EVs continues to grow. In 2016 alone, EV sales jumped by 37 percent to nearly 160,000, according to data from Inside EVs.
What's driving the growth in EV sales? A report by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) identified a number of recent trends:
- Lower prices and increased range. Tesla and Chevrolet plan to start selling electric cars with a range of more than 200 miles priced in the $30,000–$35,000 range (before incentives) by 2018.
- Advances in battery technology are dramatically improving the performance and reducing the costs of EVs. Battery prices fell 35 percent last year, according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
- Growth in charging stations. In 2016 alone, the number of charging stations in the U.S. increased by 36 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
EV charging stations may present a long-term business opportunity, attracting potential customers and making your business stand out.
Types of charging stations
Charging equipment is classified by the rate at which batteries are charged. Charging time can range from 15 minutes to 20 hours, depending on the vehicle and the equipment used. There are three types of charging stations:
- Level 1 chargers can take up to 20 hours to fully charge. They're mainly for home use.
- Level 2 chargers require 240-volt service and add 10 to 20 miles per hour of charging time.
- DC (direct current) fast charging stations add up to 80 miles of vehicle range in 20 minutes. These are growing in popularity as the charging station of choice for public facilities.
EV stations are embedded with an on‐board computer and are network‐enabled. Networks can track and report energy usage, charging session start and stop times, control usage and prevent users from driving away while plugged in.
Installing a charging station
Consider these key factors before installing a charging station:
- Mounting options. Pedestal mounts are ideal for sidewalks or open parking areas, providing easy access to charging equipment from parking spaces. Pole- and wall-mounted equipment are used in areas with space restrictions or in parking garages.
- Lighting and shelter. Shelter isn't necessary when Underwriters Laboratory-approved charging equipment is used, but adequate lighting and shelter is recommended for convenience, safety and as an incentive for use.
- Signage. Signs are recommended to alert drivers as to the location of charging equipment and to restrict parking.
- Standards. Article 625 of the National Electric Code covers the installation and operation of charging stations. Charging receptacles and connectors should be compliant with the Society of Automotive Engineers Standard J-1772.
Take into account local building codes and access to power supplies; they can have a substantial impact on installation time and cost.
How much do charging stations cost to install? Well...there's good news and bad news.
First the bad news. They're expensive. Level 2 commercial charging stations cost between $3,000 and $11,000 to install, according to the RMI report, while installation costs for DC fast chargers range from $19,000 up to $120,000.
The good news? There are a variety of state and local tax credits, rebates, grant programs and other financial incentives that can help reduce the cost of installing charging stations. Search the Alternative Fuels Data Center for incentives in your area.
A business opportunity?
Charging stations are best suited for businesses in high traffic areas, such as retail, restaurants and hotels. They can draw customers in to purchase your goods and services and keep them coming back. Walmart, Whole Foods and other leading retailers find free charging beneficial because it increases shopping time in the store, according to RMI.
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