Get A Charge Out of Electric Vehicles

Charging up at Bucks County Technical High School.  Photo by Leon Poeske

Charging up at Bucks County Technical High School. Photo by Leon Poeske

The Time is Now

If you are thinking about investing in electric vehicle charging, now may be the time; electric vehicle use is becoming more popular across the country and there are many state government and private funding programs available with limited time to apply. Since switching to electric vehicles is one of the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, installing EV charging is a powerful climate-friendly step.

This article provides a basic background to help you to start thinking about adding EV charging at your school or business.

EV on Campus

Installing an EV charging station is a great way to promote the use of alternative fuels, garner customer loyalty and increase your organization's contribution to a healthy environment. When Bucks County Technical High School chose to install EV charging stations, they quickly saw the changes across campus. Not only did they incorporate the EV charging installation into their curriculum, but in just one year the EV drivers on campus grew from one to three. Leon Poeske, the school’s Administrative Director, and original EV driver, commented

“Our Electrical students assisted in the installation of the Level 2 charging ports that we installed at our school. This type of installation is one thing electricians will be doing on a more regular basis once the EV world takes off, so it was a great learning opportunity for them...Our staff and students and the general public can easily see the cutting edge technology that exists at our school every day.”

Clearly, the power of EV charging can stretch far beyond the parking lot.

Here are some things to think about if you’re just getting acquainted with public-access EV charging

How does EV charging work?

EV charging stations come in three levels depending on the voltage required and speed of charge. Speed of charge is listed as Range miles Per Hour (RPH). The faster the charge, the more voltage required and the more expensive the station. Level 2 or DC Fast stations are recommended for municipal or commercial use; however, not all vehicles have DC Fast charging capabilities. For employee use, Level 1 or a mix of Level 1 and 2 charging is a reliable and cost effective option.

Level 1: at home 120 volts, 2-5 RPH

Level 2: 220-240 volts, max 25 RPH

DC Fast/ Level 3: up to 150 RPH

How much does an EV charging station cost?

A Level 1 charging station will cost about $1000 plus installation, permitting and labor. These stations require less energy than Level 2 and can be set-up from existing plugs, reducing installation and energy costs.  

A Level 2 charging station typically costs between $2000 and $5000, not including installation. Labor, permitting, and other materials can bring the total cost to roughly $13-$25 thousand. Keep in mind that there will be ongoing maintenance and energy costs.

Is your site right for EV Charging?

The perfect public EV Charging spot will be walkable to businesses and other activities for customers to use while their vehicle is charging. It will also be easily visible and accessible from the road.

For employee charging, you will want your site to be easily accessible for your employees, but may want to limit the station’s visibility from the road to reduce the possibility of non-employees using the service.

Maps of EV charging stations can be viewed easily on mobile apps.  Photo from Chargeway

Maps of EV charging stations can be viewed easily on mobile apps. Photo from Chargeway

Will your station be networked or non-networked?

Some companies offer networked stations, these are packaged EV charging services that include the station itself, technology, installation, maintenance, and access to the company’s customers through existing websites and apps. The benefits of using a networked station are help with management expertise, technical support and connection to a customer base through existing apps. However, choosing a non-networked station will give you more autonomy with setting the user fee, choosing your technology and style of management.

All of the following networked stations are active in the Boston and Philadelphia areas, and will provide equipment, technology, installation, management, network access and ongoing maintenance support.

Blink: https://www.blinkcharging.com/blink-map

-Provides different options for station management and revenue sharing

Chargepoint:  https://www.chargepoint.com/products/commercial/

Flexible pricing options

Multi-language display

EVgo: https://www.evgo.com/ev-drivers/customer-resources/

- Partnered with Uber

Sema Connect: https://www.semaconnect.com/station-locator/

- Lease options

In the Philadelphia area, Blink hosts the highest number of stations with ChargePoint as a close second. In the Boston area, ChargePoint hosts the most stations.

Can I get funding support?

Pennsylvania and Massachusetts offer rebate programs for EV Charging purchase and installation. Rebates are also available in both states for purchasing electric vehicles.

The ChargePoint website has a comprehensive list of other funding opportunities across the country, check out this link https://www.chargepoint.com/products/station-incentives/

Pennsylvania: The Driving PA Forward program offers rebates for Level 2 and DC Fast stations. Rebates are available for Level 2 and DC Fast charging regardless of access or type; however, the amount awarded will depend on whether the station is public, networked, or on government property. There are also fleet rebates and other types of EV promotional rebates to check out. Find more information here-  http://www.depgis.state.pa.us/drivingpaforward/

Massachusetts: MassDEP provides funding for Level 1 and Level 2 workplace charging, as well as Level 2 public-access charging. They also offer fleet, multi-unit station, and open-solicitation rebates which are accessible to any project that reduces nitrogen oxide or greenhouse gas emissions.

Find more information on the MA rebates here- https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-massevip-public-access-charging-incentives

Reserved EV parking spaces at Bucks County Technical High School.  Photo by Leon Poeske

Reserved EV parking spaces at Bucks County Technical High School. Photo by Leon Poeske

Additional decisions to consider:

Signage: You don’t want to install a charging station only to have it be consistently blocked by non-electric vehicles; this will be frustrating for those who need to charge and eliminate the reasons you wanted to offer EV charging in the first place. You’ll want to make sure the parking spaces by the charging station are clearly marked and secured for electric vehicles.

Free or Fee: Depending on if your station is networked or non-networked, you may have a choice to charge a fee for users. While the majority of public charging stations are currently free, this is not always a sustainable option. Charging a fee should be carefully considered as a way to cover costs of building and maintaining charging stations, and as source of revenue for your business. If choosing a networked station, you may not have control over the fee or future changes in the fee; some networks offer more flexibility than others.

When choosing the price for your employee charging station you will want to consider your workplace culture, and employee demand for electric charging. Free charging could be a great incentive, but it may also cause employees to plan to do their charging at work instead of at home (where they are responsible for the energy costs). This has the potential to cause increased competition for EV charging spaces.    

Faster is Not Always Better:

In a workplace where cars are typically parked for more than 6 hours, faster charging will simply increase the amount of time a car is parked at, but not using, the charging station.

“This type of installation is one thing electricians will be doing on a more regular basis once the EV world takes off, so it was a great learning opportunity for them.”
— Leon Poeske, Administrative Director, Bucks County Technical High School

Article by Emma Schlam, graduate student in Environmental Science and Policy at Clark University and intern at Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants.