by Paul Vosper, President and CEO of JuiceBar
Four months into the year, the evidence is overwhelming: 2021 will be a significant year for the development of electric vehicles (EVs). In preparation for an emissions-free future, a lot of major automakers have publicly announced commitments to the development of electric vehicles, and a number of new, EV-only automakers will be delivering their first vehicles.
Over the next 18 months, consumers will see an abundance of new models entering the market — 30 EVs from 21 brands, up from 17 models in 2020. The growth is not expected to slow. According to a study by Precedence Research (via MyNewsDesk), the electric vehicle market is expected to register a growth rate of 40.7% by 2027.
Despite the predictions supporting EVs as the future of the automotive industry, businesses and public spaces are ill-prepared with the infrastructure to support the boom. For consumers, range anxiety — the fear that a vehicle has insufficient power to reach its destination — has been cited as the major hurdle for not purchasing an EV.
The U.S. currently has an EV-to-EV charger ratio of 18:1 — it needs to be 6:1. As the production of EVs increases and more drivers make the switch, it will be necessary for businesses across a variety of industries (hospitality, commercial real estate and multi-family) to install commercial charging stations to meet the needs of tenants and consumers. We believe that when we reach mass-market adoption, most EV drivers will primarily charge their EVs at an office environment due to in-home power limitations.
Let’s break down the top features to prioritize in your search for the right product.
1. Charging Speed
Speed plays a significant role in a commercial charger’s ability to serve EV drivers and generate revenue. The charging speed or power of an EV charger is important for obvious reasons: Consumers are typically time-poor and want things fast. The type of charger and how it is being used will dictate the need for speed.
EV chargers have three levels that correspond to charging speed: Level 1, 2 and 3. Level 1 chargers use standard 110v outlets but are very slow and can take nearly a full day to completely charge an EV. This is not a problem for EV owners who are charging their vehicles overnight at their homes. Level 3, or DC fast chargers, are the highest-powered EV chargers and often used as range extenders along major travel corridors for long-distance trips to support high-mileage drivers. Level 3 chargers typically use 480v systems and can cost over $100,000 with installation costs. Level 2 chargers are the standard charging system for commercial use and account for over 80% of the charging environment at venues such as parking garages, fleet depots, hotels, hospitals, restaurants, multi-family complexes or offices. Standard-Level 2 32-amp chargers use 220-240 volts and charge a vehicle in an average of four to six hours, ideal for when dwell time exceeds two hours. However, newer EVs can accept 48- or 80-amp Level 2 charging, improving charging speed by up to 2.6X.
Higher-powered faster Level 2 chargers will thus be able to increase the number of drivers who can benefit from the charger, making the infrastructure usage more efficient and providing a faster return on investment.
2. Enhanced Safety Systems
Safety might not be the first criteria that buyers think about, but ultimately, it is one of the most important attributes for site hosts and users of EV chargers. As with any large appliance, reliable and effective systems are critical for a user safety.
Since Level 2 chargers utilize a higher voltage than Level 1 chargers, the National Electric Code designates elevated safety requirements. Safety systems within Level 2 chargers should be designed to consistently monitor a charging vehicle to ensure the safety of people around the charger.
The cable management system should consist of durable, built-to-last cables and handles, and cables should be kept off the ground for safety and convenience. The cable management system must be designed to remove tension from the handle when plugged into EVs to prevent faults and sparks that could cause a disruption in charging and even melt the handle onto the car.
3. Energy Efficiency
Today’s eco-conscious buyers demand energy-efficient equipment across all industries, and EV chargers are no exception as all commercial chargers are not equally energy-efficient. Level 2 chargers provide higher energy efficiency than Level 1 by about 10%. The most energy-efficient commercial chargers earn the ENERGY STAR label, which requires a charger to be energy-efficient while charging a vehicle and while idle since commercial chargers are in standby mode nearly 85% of the time. ENERGY STAR-certified chargers reduce environmental impact by using 40% less energy in standby mode.
4. Open Protocol Charging Networks, Scalability And Future-Proof
EV charging networks facilitate communication between charging stations, network owners and the power grid. They allow property owners to limit access, charge drivers for usage, track energy and use data, and facilitate smart charging to optimize charging.
Closed networks are tied to a specific hardware manufacturer and do not allow for switching between networks, so software and hardware cannot be easily upgraded. Open networks allow charging stations to connect to multiple open networks with the same hardware. In a rapidly evolving industry, open networks provide future-proofing and flexibility to switch network providers.
In addition to serving current EV drivers and preparing for the future influx, visible commercial chargers demonstrate a company’s commitment to sustainability. For businesses, a commercial charger is a necessity to attract and retain tenants/customers, particularly since EV drivers are among the most sought-after demographics. Businesses can utilize the space for brand marketing or sponsorships and organically reach consumers, leaving a positive impression on employees and customers.
Electric vehicles are the future of the automotive industry, and the future is coming sooner than you think. Purchasing a commercial EV charger puts your business ahead of the curve and is a step toward a greener future for our environment.