EV Chargers: What You Need to Know Before Installing Them
Between rising gas prices and federal, state and local initiatives to promote greener cities, demand for electric vehicles and the charging stations that power them is quickly accelerating. EV registrations shot up 60 percent in Q1 of 2022, and most of the major car manufacturers have committed to going all electric in the next 10-20 years. The parking industry, already an important part of the growing EV charging infrastructure, stands to play an integral role in the nationwide shift to electric vehicles.
One thing is certain: electric vehicles are no longer seen as a possible distant future reality.
Depending on the city and state you operate in, you might already be experiencing the EV push first-hand, including incentives and updates to building codes requiring more spaces devoted to charging stations. But you shouldn’t wait for building code requirements to install charging stations at your facility – they’re not only a revenue generator themselves but a revenue multiplier, offering a competitive advantage in bringing in the rapidly growing number of EV drivers to your business.
However, it’s important to note that there are a lot of different chargers out there, and before you start committing 10-25 percent of your facility’s parking spaces to installing them, you should realize that not all chargers are created equal. In fact, many of them are broken or difficult to use. If you want to avoid faulty chargers that are going to drive your customers to park somewhere else, here are some important factors to consider:
Ease of Use
Amazingly, many charging companies don’t make it particularly easy to use their stations. They might require a key fob that you have to wait to receive in the mail or, more commonly, download an app, sign up for a membership, and maintain a topped-up balance. The trouble is when an EV driver pulls into your parking garage, they’re at the mercy of whatever kind of charger you’ve installed. That might mean waiting around for an app to download and typing in their personal information on their phone when they have a movie to catch. On the other hand, there are chargers that are as simple to operate as scanning a QR code, just like a menu at a restaurant.
You should also make sure that any charging station you invest in supports connected infrastructure. That means that its software is able to seamlessly integrate with apps like Google Maps and PlugShare, which display local charger availability. If your stations don’t show up on these apps and allow for payment through them, EV drivers will park somewhere else.
Connected infrastructure also means possibilities for integrating with your facility’s payment software. My charger company, EVPassport, recently partnered with global parking solutions company Scheidt & Bachmann to bring a frictionless parking/charging experience to the world. On the host side, back-end charging station cloud software should also be tailored to the specific industry where it is being used so facility owners can have greater control over their stations, from self parking to valet to fleets and ride-share applications.
ADA accessibility should also be at the forefront of considerations when choosing an EV charger. The common pedestal design of many chargers can be tricky to place, especially when retrofitting existing spaces, and their bulkiness, screen location, and cord length can create difficulties for those with impaired mobility. However, non-pedestal stations can be placed just about anywhere and at customizable heights, while QR codes on the charger handle allow for much easier access.
A major consideration for charging stations is their reliability. In fact, a recent study found that nearly 28 percent of San Francisco Bay Area chargers were inoperable. If you’re going to devote a good portion of your spaces to charging stations, you cannot afford to have a quarter of them out of order. So why do so many chargers not work?
One big issue lately relates to how these charging stations communicate with their companies. You might’ve read about how cellular providers are phasing out 3G towers to make way for 5G. The problem for EV drivers is that a lot of current chargers use 3G, which means they are rapidly becoming obsolete–many are already dead. And now, the people who invested in these machines are stuck with a bunch of useless, hulking pedestals taking up their parking spots.
For newer chargers, the 3G issue won’t be a problem, but this whole debacle underscores how important it is for charger owners, and for anyone invested in widespread EV adoption, to properly research the chargers they are installing before they commit to them. Some companies are more forward-looking than others. We should invest only in charging stations that are future-proof with LTE connectivity, have connected infrastructure (open APIs), and cloud updates.
But 3G is far from the only problem plaguing much of the EV charger industry. A lot of the blame for these troubles goes back to chargers’ software, which in most cases is created by a third party and licensed to the charger company. That opens up the potential for a lot of bugs, including nonfunctional credit card swipers and chargers that tell locator apps like Google Maps that they are available when they’re actually already in use – or currently down.
You want a charger that has integrated software and hardware that won’t malfunction and that can send reliable, real-time status updates both to other apps and back to the charger company, so that they can respond quickly to any potential problems.
Charger companies offer various revenue sharing models with owners. Search around for a company that offers a low cost of entry, so you can get up and running and start making a profit quickly.
The Future of EV Charging
One thing is certain: electric vehicles are no longer seen as a possible distant future reality. Skyrocketing gas prices and the pressing need to mitigate climate change are driving demand for EVs so high that car companies can’t keep up. Congress’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated $7.5 billion for a national network of charging stations, and every day sees more initiatives to promote the switch to electric vehicles.
The charging station infrastructure needed to power this switch, however, will not look like the gas stations we’re all familiar with. These chargers will be at people’s homes, workplaces and schools. They’ll be at the restaurants they eat in, the stores they shop in, the hotels they stay in, and the facilities they park in. EV drivers will take to “topping up” their charge as they go about their day, much like they do with their cell phones.
The parking industry has an opportunity to be a major part of this charging infrastructure, with individual parking businesses able to stake out a claim as a reliable source for convenient charging amongst the competition. This distinction will attract new customers and build loyalty, while bringing in additional revenue on the charges themselves. Invest in charging stations that are convenient and reliable, and you’ll be well positioned to reap the benefits of an electrified future.
Hooman Shahidi is the Co-Founder and President of EVPassport. He can be reached at: Hooman@EVPassport.com