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PT the Auditor

Charging Stations, Lights and a ‘Secret’ Powder

I spent a couple of days in Pittsburgh in late May checking out the companies that exhibited at the 2011 IPI show. I was looking for a couple of items that my customers needed.
First was hybrid or electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. There were a bunch of them. My client has a shopping center and wants to be considered “green.” This is one way he felt he could do so.
What I found was that the charging stations cost about $5,000 and could cost as much more to install, depending on where your electrical panel is in relation to where you would want to put the station. The interesting thing is that there seemed to be a lot of “deals” offered by manufacturers.
I believe I could get the charging stations installed for virtually nothing, assuming my client qualified for rebates from the government. That would be perfect, of course, since in reality these are for “show,” at least for the first few years.
I thought that with the stations I might gain some customers from the garage across the street, but figured that if I did so, in a couple of months they would install a few stations and we would be right back where we started.
I considered charging for them, but since the amount of electricity to top off an EV or plug-in hybrid was about $3, it would cost more than that to collect (using a credit card).
Some of the systems were connected to a revenue control system – use your ticket to activate the charger and pay with your parking payment. One minor problem there was that I already have a revenue control system. (It’s a good add-on if you are replacing equipment, but I doubt my client would spend a million bucks so he could get a fancier charging station.)
There are other issues dealing with how to control the spaces; how much to charge (do you charge more for people who charge their cars, including the convenience of the charging station and the space in one fee?); how to determine how many you need; and, in the end, do you supply an “e” valet to jockey cars around and ensure that the charger is available to all who need it? (My guess is the $45K the last would cost would not be on the top of my client’s to-do list.)
Oh, we will put one in: We like the publicity and the little arrow in Google maps showing where charging stations are located. I will be very interested to see just how many of these electrical marvels actually show up.
The other item I was seeking at the IPI expo was new lighting for my client’s garage. Here we had a winner. A number of exhibitors were happy to provide quotes after viewing my project. There is little question that new technology such as LED lighting can save us a bundle. (I’m sure this is one “green” project my client will embrace quickly. It makes economic sense.)
Two other items caught my eye. First, I spent an hour with a company that makes a powder that “eats” oil spills. You sprinkle it on the oil and sweep it up later.
Just like kitty litter, you say. Not really. This material actually contains an enzyme that eats the oil and pulls it out of the asphalt. Its appears to be good stuff, and if the demonstration the exhibitor promised is as good as he says, it will replace the 50-pound bag of Tidy Cat we use each month.
I also noticed enclosures for the new pay-on-foot machines that we are installing. They looked good, were all-weather, and will fit just where we need to put them.
I was impressed that these small companies spent the time and money to exhibit at the IPI show. Frankly, being able to touch, feel and, yes, sniff their products makes a huge difference. Four companies will receive orders from me in the next year. I’m sure of that.
Trade shows are an excellent place to research items for your garage or parking operation. Two more major industry events are coming up:
The National Parking Association (NPA) is holding its 2011 Convention & Exposition Oct. 3-6 in Las Vegas (www.npapark.org). The NPA offers a special discount for folks visiting only the exhibit floor.
And the 2012 Parking Industry Exhibition (PIE), sponsored by Parking Today, is slated for March 18-21 in Chicago (www.parkingtoday.com). Also check the calendar on PT’s website – you might find a smaller parking-related event near your hometown.
Woof!

Article Abstract from July, 2011




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