Renewable Energy: EV Infrastructure

By Anne Cosgrove
Published in the November 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

The electric vehicle (EV) market is expected to continue to grow in the United States, and the infrastructure to support this type of transportation will expand to accommodate. Public and private entities alike can install EV charging stations at desired locations, making available to the general public or specific users the ability to charge the batteries in their EVs.

According to an October 2012 report from Pike Research, Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment, the previous 18 months have marked the transition of plug-in EVs into full commercialization. Pike predicts that more than 135,000 plug-in EVs will have been sold globally during 2012, and growth is expected to continue at a steady pace.

In examining the market profile of public charging stations, the Pike Research report asserts there will be nearly 45,000 installed around the world by year’s end. In the United States, according to the Department of Energy (DOE) Alternative Fuels Data Center there are currently 4,756 non-residential PEV charging stations in operation. The operator types are as follows: state (146), local (698), utilities (247), and private facilities (3,665).

When it comes to installing EV charging stations on their sites, facility managers (fms) are choosing to do so for a variety of reasons. Retail locations, for instance, can provide the equipment for customers. Fms in other commercial facility types can install charging stations for employees, visitors, and facility fleets. In educational settings, fms can accommodate faculty, staff, and students who drive EVs.

The time required to charge an EV battery varies with the type of charging equipment. There are three approaches in use, each of which provide different charging speeds. DC charging units are the quickest mode, generally able to provide 80% of battery charge in 30 minutes. These 500 volt charging stations are often referred to as “fast charge” or “quick charge” systems. A Level 2 charger provides a 240 volt AC charge, and depending on specific equipment, these can charge an EV in one to several hours.

The DC and Level 2 equipment are what are commonly installed at facilities and in public spaces. Level 1 charging equipment provides slower speeds and is most often used for residential use.

Another means of charging is wirelessly, and the Pike Research report states this is still in the demonstration phase but that deployment may begin to occur in 2013.

Encouraging EV use is one way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and fms can take it a step further by powering charging stations with renewable energy. At Auburn University in Alabama, a 24 panel solar array is providing the energy to charge 10 stations installed in July 2012. The stations are available to any user, but several of the spots are currently used by university vehicles.

Located in a campus parking deck, the stations are sited on top of two stairwells in the deck. The power generated by the solar panels is fed back into the university’s master power grid as an offset to other energy used on campus. The system is also expected to offset the energy to power some of the parking deck lighting when the charging stations are not in use.

Ken Martin, energy engineer for Auburn’s facility management department, said, “We will be able to quantify our results and determine whether or not to suggest future deployment sites, particularly on other parking decks.” A real-time tracking tool can be viewed at this link.

When considering installing EV charging stations, fms will want to evaluate all aspects, and these include:

  • Location: When choosing a site, consider walkways or tree root zones that would be impacted by running conduit.
  • Visibility: If the station will be accessible to the public, list it on available online databases so that interested drivers can find the station.
  • Parking Space: Is there enough inventory to devote spaces to EV charging?
  • Fees: Most charging stations have the capability to charge users for electricity. Even if a fee structure is not set up at the outset, fms should have enough power and communication capacity run to the station to support it in the future.

Financial incentives for installing EV charging stations are relatively sparse at this time, but there are states and utilities offering tax credits and rebates. Plug In America, a 501(c)(3) public charity based in San Francisco, CA maintains a database on its website, and Alabama Power, Arizona, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Washington, and West Virginia are among the entities with incentives in effect.

Research for this article included information from Auburn University, the DOE Alternative Fuels Data Center, Pike Research, and Plug In America.