The number of electric vehicles on U.S. roads may reach 48 million by 2030, according to research by McKinsey & Company. These vehicles are offered by established automakers such as Ford and General Motors, as well as newer companies like Tesla and Lucid. Electric vehicles are already parked at buildings and facilities across North America. As a result, building owners, facilities managers, and developers must now consider the implementation of EV charging as a corporate or residential amenity.
Here’s what you need to know about preparing your property for EV charging.
Preparing your property
To set up your property for EV charging, it’s essential to begin by understanding your electrical infrastructure. Level 2 charging stations, commonly used in residential and many commercial applications, are designed for a 208/240 V input. Whether you’re planning for a standard 48A or a higher-powered 80A unit, the National Electrical Code (NEC), Section 625, requires a dedicated circuit sized at 125% of the maximum output of the charging station.
For properties aiming to install more charging stations than their current infrastructure allows, there is an option to utilize smart load management capabilities in the charging station software. This enables power sharing between stations and helps minimize costs.
Conducting an EV site walk
As with any building project, it’s essential to determine your building’s existing infrastructure during the project planning stage. If retrofitting an existing site, your facility manager, electrician*, contractors, and even your EVSE vendor should conduct a site evaluation. (*Note: some charging station manufacturers may require the use of manufacturer-certified electricians, and California businesses must use an EVITP-certified installer.)
Some newer buildings may already have “Make Ready Infrastructure,” which is included in the LEED building rating system and is required in an increasing number of building codes. There are three classifications of EV infrastructure:
- EV Capable. Parking spaces include panel capacity and conduits/raceways for future charging.
- EV Ready. Parking spaces include panel capacity, conduits, full circuits, and receptacles or junction boxes. These parking spaces can be considered “plug-and-play” because they are ready to install a charger.
- EV Installed. Parking spaces include all electrical infrastructure, including the charging stations.
To minimize costs, it’s essential to:
- Select parking spaces near the electrical panel or electrical room. Reducing the length of your conduit saves labor, materials, and site work.
- Check cellular signal at the future charging station locations. Smart charging stations require WiFi or LTE to communicate with the cloud-based platform. If your preferred location is in a parking garage, remote area, or otherwise partially obstructed, you may need to install a cellular repeater to improve 4G signal.
- Review local codes and ADA requirements. Some regions may require additional permitting or minimum numbers of chargers at new buildings. If your building is subject to ADA and ABA, it is also important to remember that installing charging stations may affect your calculated minimum accessible parking spaces at your parking facility. And while the Access Board has not yet released guidance on the minimum accessible chargers, businesses should expect to need at least one ADA-accessible EV charging space.
While there are many EV charging products on the market, smart building owners need equipment that can flexibly adapt to any commercial property. Here are some of the major requirements to look for when choosing a charging station.
Level 2 versus DC fast charging
Many building owners and managers assume that faster is always better, but this is not the case when it comes to electric vehicle charging. Level 2 charging stations, which range from 30A and 7.2kW to 80A and 19.2kW at 208/240V input, are designed for daily charging at residential and commercial applications. Depending on the station amperage and vehicle battery, EV drivers can receive 25 to 65 miles of range per charging hour using a Level 2 charger. Level 2 chargers are the preferred option for homes or workplaces where drivers typically park for multiple hours.
DC fast charging stations, on the other hand, are best for locations such as truck stops and fleet depots where drivers stay for less than an hour. These charging stations begin at 30kW at 480V, with higher-powered DCFC options delivering more than 300kW. However, while these charging stations are lightning fast, they are not compatible with all EVs, and the high installation costs are cost prohibitive for many businesses. For this reason, most businesses instead use their budget for buying multiple Level 2 chargers for the price of a single DCFC.
Smart network functionality
While earlier pilot programs could get away with non-networked chargers, today’s buildings must use a charging network. With cloud-based software, building managers can manage public and private access, set pricing for EV drivers, and view station analytics. With some states now requiring charging station owners to pay taxes based on charge usage or revenue, the ability to download reports is essential for today’s EVSE hosts.
Smart grid functionality
Two related technologies are Automated Demand Response (ADR) and ISO 15118. In addition to smart load management at the station or building level, ADR allows businesses to join a local utility company’s demand response program, which reduces power to electrical equipment during peak power periods. ISO 15118 is an upcoming standard for Vehicle to Grid (V2G) and bidirectional charging, which would allow buildings to use electric vehicle batteries as backup power storage. Selecting charging stations with these capabilities will allow businesses to join money-saving utility programs and support grid resiliency in the community.
California Type Evaluation Program (CTEP)
If your building is located in California, you may be subject to CTEP requirements. All publicly available charging stations must be CTEP-certified units, which means that they have been tested for accurate measurements, clearly show pricing (if enabled), offer non-membership charging authentication methods, and utilize pricing plans based on energy usage (kilowatt-hour). There must also be signage or markings indicating the contact information for the local responsible party. Finally, stations must be installed by an EVITP-certified electrician and registered with the county.
What about fire safety?
Many building managers are understandably concerned about fire safety. The good news is that there are safety standards for EV charging equipment set by UL, MetLabs, and CSA Group. UL 2231, in particular, is a standard which reduces the risk of electrical shock and electrical fires. In accordance with this standard, Level 2 charging stations use a charge current interrupting device (CCID) with an immediate automatic reset to interrupt the flow of electricity to the vehicle in case of a ground fault. Should there be a power surge or CCID trip, the CCID circuit will end charging, then attempt to restart after a designated time period. In addition, the standardized SAE J-1772 connector also includes a safety mechanism which prevents electrical flow until connected to the metal pins within a vehicle charging port.
One benefit of hardwiring commercial EV charging equipment to discourage drivers from plugging personal charging cables into a 110V wall outlet is that a UL/MetLabs certified Level 2 charging station is less likely to cause a fire or tripping hazard than a user-owned cable with unknown maintenance.
The ultimate question always comes down to budget. The total cost of installing EV charging stations can vary based on elements such as labor, materials, distance from the electrical panel, site work, and local taxes and permits. Buildings with EV Capable or EV Ready infrastructure can save thousands when using existing electrical infrastructure. According to an analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation, the average national installation cost per Level 2 unit significantly decreased from $2,836 for a single charger to $2,305 for installations with six or more chargers. For this reason, building owners planning a small installation of two to four charging stations in 2024 should also construct EV Ready infrastructure at additional spaces to minimize site work during future installations.
Finally, building owners should look to federal and state incentives to reduce project costs. The Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit, which is available for installations in designated census tracts, will provide 6% up to $100,000 per station, with additional credit for meeting prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements. Other rebates and incentives for hardware and/or make-ready infrastructure may be available for qualifying businesses from states and local utilities. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center offers a comprehensive list of state regulations and incentives for installing EV charging stations at businesses.
Electric vehicle charging is a new technology but building owners and managers are not alone. With proper planning, your smart building can add another smart, energy efficient amenity that saves money and supports all employees and visitors.