How to Choose the Best Locations for Public EV Charging Stations

 In EV Charging, EV Industry

As the next generation of electric vehicles start rolling out, fleet managers and consumers can begin weighing the options headed to market. However, with thousands more EVs expected to hit the streets in areas of high concentration, there are practical concerns to consider.

Three issues in particular come to mind:

  • HOV lane crowding. Will carpool lanes become crowded with plug-in vehicles once the next wave arrives?
  • Electricity demand. How (if at all) will charging cars affect electricity demand and pricing?
  • Charging station availability. Will there be enough public chargers to handle the demand?

On the question of charging stations, the real concern might not be “how many?” but rather “where?” One well-placed charger of the right capacity can service many more EVs than multiple stations in the wrong place. As in all questions of real estate, location is the key.

If you are planning to install one or more EV chargers to service the influx of plug-in vehicles, here are the key factors to consider when deciding on location.

P.S. we put together a short PDF cheatsheet that covers the main points from this article. You can download that PDF here.

Level of Charger

BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf utilize DC Fast chargers

BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf utilize DC Fast chargers

If you host a charging station at a highway rest stop, standard wall outlets serve little purpose to drivers. At destinations where consumers stop for several hours at a time, fast chargers (and the accompanying expense) are not necessary. Before you match the charger to the location, review the different levels.

  • Level 1: No more than a standard 110v wall outlet, this power source provides 2-5 miles per hour.
  • Level 2: This 220v power source can provide between 10 and 20 miles per hour of charging.
  • Fast chargers (Levels 3 and 4): There is no single standard for fast-charging, but the best equipment delivers an 80% charge (over 60 miles in some EVs) in 30 minutes.
  • Tesla Superchargers: Tesla’s fast-charging equipment works only on the brand’s vehicles, including the upcoming Model 3. Superchargers deliver 80% charge in 30 minutes.

Type of Destination

BMW i3 and Ford Fusion Energi charge at Century City Mall, home to a Tesla store

BMW i3 and Ford Fusion Energi charge at Century City Mall, home to a Tesla store / Eric Schaal for FleetCarma

If you operate a facility where drivers spend several hours at the destination, Level 2 chargers are perfect for the job. Shopping malls, parking structures near a beach or park, and movie theaters fit this description. Consumers plan to park in these places for hours. Those in need of a charge will utilize the charging equipment on hand as long as the price is reasonable.

Since fast chargers need only 30 minutes to give drivers a big range boost, they are ideal for highway rest stops, downtown cafes, and other spots where drivers plan to spend short periods of time. This charging station requires the most power and comes with the highest installation cost.

Level 1 chargers are only practical for public parking garages and apartment buildings with plug-in hybrid consumers. Ford Fusion Energi (19 miles) and Hyundai Sonata (27 miles) PHEVs can get a full charge overnight on a standard wall outlet. Nonetheless, providing access to this low-cost power source may serve as an attraction for garage owners and leasing managers.


Charging station owners must understand their clientele

The problem with the first wave of public EV stations has been pricing. ChargePoint, the largest provider of stations, leaves matters of pricing in the hands of each station operator, and many have misjudged their clientele.

Garage owners that charge high charging fees on top of high parking fees are unlikely to get many clients for the product. Finding the right formula involves knowing the clientele that will end up at your facility. Are they mostly luxury car drivers who gravitate toward Teslas or consumers more likely to drive a Nissan Leaf?

ChargePoint members rely on the mobile app to find a charging solution, and this app gives users the chance to leave feedback. Station owners who charge too high a price risk having their plugs left unused the majority of the time unless they provide reasonable terms of access (i.e., parking discounts). Know your clientele before setting the prices.

Cost of Installation and Operation

EV charging station installation

Level 2 and fast-charging equipment requires a special installation and therefore will require building permits and other considerations. Once you have the clearance to launch the station, there are three financial elements to consider:

  • Location-specific installation costs. Where you decide to mount the charger in the parking lot will affect the overall project cost.
  • Energy pricing in peak and off-peak hours. Different parts of the area may come with different electricity prices, especially when you are dealing with sites across state lines.
  • Available incentives. Station operators have access to state incentives that will lower the cost of installing EV stations in some locations.

Keeping charging costs low allows station owners to serve more drivers. Finding the right price is the difference between a high-traffic station and one where the plugs go unused for most of the day.

Local Infrastructure and Future Plans

Nissan LEAF charging in parking lotEV chargers will become more of a fixture in communities around North America in the coming decade. Station operators will want to take note of existing chargers in the area and see the level of use they have on a regular basis. As you plan for the future, look for the spots that are unserved by current plugs.

In general, the most charging stations exist in parking facilities that have separate fees attached for entry. Business owners with space in parking lots for EV fast chargers can attract business by advertising this perk at a reasonable price. Corporate parking lots are also excellent places for Level 2 chargers.

By studying the existing infrastructure and following the municipality’s plans to add chargers in the area, station developers can find the ideal place for upcoming projects.

Conclusion: Know the Local EV Concentration

As electric car drivers feel the freedom to roam more freely with ranges topping 200 miles, the demand for public charging will increase substantially. Station developers who can pinpoint under-served areas will be able to capitalize on this uptick in charging.

The best thing station planners can do is study the available data on EV use to identify the opportunities. With a mix of public and home chargers, electric vehicle concentration can penetrate the overall auto market and bring local emissions down. Public and private sector organizations can agree these benefits are worth pursuing.


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