Posted on 7/21/2014 10:04 AM by Tad Benson

If you’re a facility manager or building owner, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are probably already on your radar.  Here are six questions to ask before you purchase an EV charging station.

1)  Which EV Charging Station is Right for Me?

Determine which charge station speed and power level is best for your property. Level 1 is the least expensive and slowest option, but it’s typically used for residential applications as it uses household outlets.

Level 2 is the most common commercial and public charging level. It uses 240 volts, like an oven or clothes dryer. DC Fast Charging is the fastest option, but also very expensive and usually requires significant electrical infrastructure upgrades.

You can also choose between dumb or smart stations. Dumb stations are stand-alone units without operating software needed to manage features, like controlling access or pricing. They are simply an on/off device.

Smart stations are capable of utilizing management software to help owners measure and control costs, optimize asset usage, provide value-added features to EV drivers, and monitor station up-time.

Single or dual ports are also available. You can get a charging station with one charging plug (also known as a port) or two. Having two ports allows you to install one charging station between two or more parking spots. Dual-port stations are typically more expensive, but they can save money on installation costs.

2)  Can I Switch EV Charging Networks?

A charging station’s communications capabilities and cloud-based management software are collectively called a charge station network. A network’s management software provides all of the features necessary to efficiently operate a network of stations.

It is important to note that a network’s management software can be either open or closed. Closed networks do not allow you to switch network providers unless you completely replace the charging stations. It is like being locked into one cellular network for the life of your phone. Using an open and switchable network reduces the risk of abandoned assets or expensive upgrades.

3)  How Much Does Installation Cost?

The highest cost of providing EV charging stations is often their installation. Electric service upgrades, trenching, repaving, distance to panel, and other factors can significantly impact your installation costs. Good planning with your installer and keeping future expansion in mind will reduce your short- and long-term installation costs.

4)  How Many Charging Stations Do I Need?

To answer this question, keep both your current and future EV charging needs in mind, even if you currently have very few EV drivers. Consider approaches like:

Small Pilot Test – Start with a couple of stations that utilize an open and switchable network. This flexibility will give you the most latitude when you install additional stations in the future. Also put the pilot charging stations in an area where additional units can be added down the road without too much additional work.

Do a Survey – Poll all of your drivers to obtain the current numbers of EVs and drivers’ future intent to purchase them.

Utilization Data – Make sure your EV charging station network provider has reporting tools to monitor when and where your stations are consistently at maximum capacity and when additional stations are truly needed.

5)  How Am I Going to Manage Them?

Some EV charging station network providers offer cost-effective management services so you don’t have to dedicate staff time to operate the software, provide up-time monitoring, or take care of maintenance. Some companies also include 24/7 support to help with driver registrations, training, and resolving technical issues.

6.  How Do I Get a High ROI and a Low TCO?

Increased ROI can be derived from some several key areas, such as enhancing employee or customer attraction and retention. You can also enhance your brand perception through positive PR value centered on sustainability efforts and value-added amenities.

Total cost of ownership can be reduced by avoiding stranded charging station assets by purchasing stations with an open and switchable network capability. Proper planning and charging station utilization management will also minimizing the over-buying of charging stations. Lastly, choose an EV charging partner capable of full-service management and support.

Tad Benson is the vice president of marketing for EV Connect, which offers EV charging station solutions.