By Daniel Colombini and Vinod Palal
From the June 2022 Issue
Sales of electric vehicles are skyrocketing, defining the future of transportation in America along the way. Manufacturers of electric vehicles (EVs) had a “blockbuster first quarter in 2022,” according to Fortune magazine.1 “Tesla posted a record $3.3 billion profit in the first three months of 2022, with sales of its vehicles up 81% from last year. Other carmakers with fledgling EV divisions also saw big sales boosts. Volkswagen Group saw a 65% bump for all of its electric models, while sales of Mercedes EVs were up 37%.”
Venkat Srinivasan, Director of the Center for Collaborative Energy Storage Science at the U.S. government’s Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, told Reuters that “there is a different kind of tipping point that we seem to have hit—an emotional or psychological tipping point among consumers.” He believes that “more and more people” would buy EVs “notwithstanding the cost of the battery and the vehicle.”2
On top of that, the U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act3 enacted in November, includes $7.5 billion to build out the first-ever national network of electric vehicle chargers in the United States. And the federal government has a goal that half of all new vehicles sold in the United States will be zero-emissions vehicles, including electric or plug-in hybrids, by 2030.4
That combination of blockbuster sales, the reaching of a psychological tipping point, and the addition of a new national network of EV chargers creates a new challenge for facility executives. The shift to electric vehicles is coming rapidly—it could be fast and furious—and building owners and operators need to be prepared.
4 Key Ways To Prepare For EVs
In our experience as engineers working with commercial property owners to maximize their energy efficiency and prepare for future energy requirements, there are four steps that facility executives should take, starting now, to prepare for this shift.
First, consider the nature and needs of each existing property in the context of future electric vehicle use. Does the property provide parking for commuting employees or a commercial fleet? How long is the typical commute or product delivery route? Will drivers expect to charge their vehicles at work or at home? How many existing parking spaces are there? How close are those spaces to the electrical infrastructure? How available are other chargers at nearby locations?
It’s also worth considering the marketing benefits of offering sufficient electric vehicle chargers to potential tenants. Prominently placed electric vehicle chargers provide a vital service and make a compelling statement of a property’s commitment to the environment.
Second, if the anticipated needs are substantial, survey the infrastructure. With professional engineering assistance, the existing electrical infrastructure can be evaluated to determine what would be required to adapt it to meet the anticipated needs for electric vehicle charging.
Most properties have sufficient infrastructure capacity—without a service upgrade—to serve a small percentage of existing parking spaces with electric vehicle charging. The magnitude and cost of any upgrade to meet anticipated demand will depend on several factors: the capacity of the electrical service upgrade; the distance from existing electrical service to the sites where the chargers will be needed; whether digging trenches is required, and any local law requirements.
Third, determine the estimated cost of any needed upgrade. That cost depends primarily on the answers to three questions: What is the size of the required upfront infrastructure upgrade? What financial incentives are available? What potential is there for the upfront cost to be reimbursed over time through a nominal surcharge beyond the energy consumption of each vehicle serviced? Chargers on commercial properties would typically be Level 2 chargers that provide around 32 miles of range per hour of charging.
Fortunately, government and utility incentives can cover 50% or more of the cost, depending on the location and type of property. In New York City, for instance, incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and local utility Con Edison are significant. Con Edison’s rebate per electric vehicle charger port has been as much as $11,200.
Fourth, anticipate and meet the need. Based on the size and anticipated cost of the required infrastructure upgrade, develop a staged plan for meeting the need as it emerges. Decide how many electric vehicle chargers are required and when. Then activate the plan so that the property is always one step ahead of demand.
With these four steps, facility executives can ensure that their properties are always ahead of the demand for electric vehicle chargers. That demand is inevitable. By meeting it, facility executives can ensure the competitiveness of their properties, while also helping address the national agenda of reducing carbon emissions and decreasing dependence on foreign oil.