The age of electric vehicles (EVs) is upon us. According to Bloomberg, passenger EV sales are set to increase from 3.1 million in 2020 to 14 million in 2025. And as demand for EVs skyrockets, it highlights the need for more widespread charging infrastructure. Respondents to a McKinsey survey cited inadequate charging availability as the top barrier to wider EV adoption.
Forward-thinking companies are rushing to fill that gap. Innovative commercial parking operators in the office, retail, and mixed-use sectors have already begun reaping the rewards of offering EV charging to their customers. They’re expanding revenue streams, serving a fast-growing consumer segment, and aligning with corporate sustainability goals. Parking facilities without charging capabilities risk getting left behind.
While the benefits of EV charging make it an obvious choice for parking operators, the decision-making process involved in installing them isn’t so simple. There’s much to consider, and the decisions you make pre-installation will have long-term implications on your operations. As you begin to explore your options, here are five questions to ask yourself.
What type of customer experience do you want to create?
Before getting into the details of pricing, promotion, and other more tactical matters, it’s good to start with an idea of what you want the EV charging experience to be like for your customers. For example, if your facility is dedicated fully to office workers, you may want to offer EV charging stations where customers can park all day. If you operate a retail parking facility, on the other hand, you need charging stations to turn over more quickly to maintain availability.
These factors will help determine the type of charger you need. In office parking facilities, Level 1 chargers may be adequate since employees are likely to use the same space for 8-9 hours. Level 2 chargers, which are the most common, are more appropriate for retail or mixed-use facilities. And for operators that want to provide the fastest possible charging experience, Level 3 chargers, while costly, can fully charge a standard EV in less than an hour.
Will you charge customers for using EV stations?
If you’re planning on charging customers, setting the right fee structure can be particularly tricky. You want to maximize revenue, but you also want to make payment as convenient and transparent as possible for your customers. You can charge for time, kWh used, or by the space itself. Since you’ll have a limited number of EV chargers to begin with, you’ll also need a strategy for dealing with customers who use a space for much longer than they need it.
Dynamic pricing can help address the complexity of these challenges. When set up properly, customers pay for the true value of the space, instead of a set rate that can feel arbitrary to them. And you can optimize the revenue generated by your EV charging stations based on demand, time of day, and other factors.
How will you promote your EV charging stations?
If your facility is open to the public, EV charging availability can be an excellent marketing tool. There are a number of ways to promote your charging stations: parking aggregator apps, marketing campaigns (such as email and social media), and outdoor signage. Some aggregator apps focus solely on facilities with EV charging, which can expand your outreach even further.
Have you considered your future needs?
The EV market is only going to grow over time. Even if you’re only installing a limited number of chargers today, it’s important to prepare for the needs of tomorrow. That means you need to think about future needs for electrical capacity and trenching for conduit. Digging trenching is highly disruptive and it can be costly. It’s best if you only have to do it once. As you plan the installation process, you’ll need to balance your current and future needs.
What analytics and controls do you need?
EV charging stations can provide you with a wealth of data that you can use to continually improve operations and monitor your progress towards goals. You can track KPIs for usage, revenue, and sustainability. Some charging solutions also allow you to monitor energy usage and shift loads when needed. While advanced analytics and controls can be valuable if you need them, these systems usually come at a higher price point, and there’s no need to pay for bells and whistles that you won’t use. Understanding what analytics and controls you truly need will help you find the ideal solution.
Which external partners do you need?
Whether you choose to install your EV charging stations yourself or work with an external electrical contractor, it’s important to engage your local electric utility. Along with your EV charging station vendor, they can advise you on rebates and other incentives to consider as you price your options. They can also evaluate whether your charging infrastructure will affect power distribution equipment, and how. For example, higher powered Level 2 chargers may require that you upgrade your onsite electricity capabilities.
Working with qualified, experienced partners can also help you navigate these decisions. An expert electrical contractor can help you identify the best hardware and software for your use case. The ideal partner will have the experience to help you weigh costs, building codes, user demand, and your electrical capacity.
You can make the decision-making and installation process even easier by working with an electrical contractor that also has parking expertise. With experience in both areas, they can help you incorporate EV charging into your overall operation. Dynamic pricing, marketing strategies, and even signage are all key components of successful EV charging programs, and the right partner will know how to optimize each aspect, so you reap the full rewards.
Demand for EV charging is only going to grow. With the right partners, analytics and controls, and marketing strategies you can reap the full rewards of installing EV charging stations in your facility. Asking the right questions up front will enable you to meet the needs of your customers today and set the foundation to scale effectively in the future.
Jim Norris is a Director of Business Development for ABM’s eMobility and Electrical Infrastructure team. ABM’s Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure team specializes in complete end-to-end “Turn-Key” EV charging infrastructure solutions, delivering full-service project management to include initial consultation, site planning, electrical infrastructure assessments, charging equipment installation, training, maintenance, and service.
Stan Bochniak is Vice President, National Parking Sales for ABM Industries. He has over 25 years of parking industry experience in roles from facility manager, regional manager, and regional marketing director for the southwest region. All of these positions have enabled him to develop a strong and diverse knowledge of parking and transportation operations.