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  • Writer's pictureJosh Veblen

EV Charging Station Installation: Challenges & Solutions

Updated: Apr 24

The electrification of transportation is fundamental to both the mobility and energy transition. "The future is electric," stated John Bozzella, President of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. As a result, governments and manufacturers across the country are investing enormous amounts of capital into the EV market. More than 1.6 million EVs were sold across the US and Canada in 2023, up 49% from the previous year. Additional growth of 31% is predicted for 2024.

The industry's exponential growth has created abundant business opportunities for those venturing into the EV market. As is the case with most new technologies, it has also created a number of challenges. This article examines some of the main hurdles associated with EV charging station installation and offers up a number of practical solutions.

Initial Considerations

The initial—and perhaps most critical—consideration for any electrical installation is choosing the right electrical contractor. This is especially true for EV installations. (Not all electrical contractors have the experience, expertise, and credentials needed to install EV charging stations. Alco Building Solutions does.)

An experienced EV electrical contractor understands the intricacies of high-voltage systems and prioritizes safe electrical design at every step of the installation process. When installing an EV charging station, this includes:

  • Conducting a site assessment and evaluating current energy usage and future load requirements

  • Researching and securing all available incentives, funding, and rebates

  • Investigating any issues related to right-of-way access and easements impacting EV charging station siting

  • Securing all necessary permits

  • Collaborating with the local utility

  • Ensuring all electrical work is in compliance with local codes and is tailored to manufacturer guidelines. 

Site Infrastructure Considerations

Target Customers:

Not surprisingly, a key consideration when installing charging infrastructure should be assessing target users' demand requirements, wants, and needs. A thorough understanding of their anticipated charging requirements, travel habits, time constraints, and the type of electric vehicles they drive should influence future station planning.

Positive EV charging experiences create happy customers. Happy customers create additional business opportunities and revenue. Charger availability, real-time information on available chargers, easy charging and payment processes, and safety are key factors influencing customer satisfaction.

Power Capacity:

The existing site infrastructure is one of the main hurdles involved in EV station installation. Many locations, especially older buildings or rural areas, lack the electrical infrastructure needed to power an EV station. Upgrading the local power distribution infrastructure's electrical service wiring and/or components may be necessary for larger or faster-charging installations, such as DC fast charging stations, medium- and heavy-duty EV charging sites, and commercial fleet charging stations.

There are rising concerns that the electric grid may not be able to handle the increased demand for EV charging infrastructure. As such, your electrical contractor and local utility may recommend adding renewable energy sources such as solar and battery storage. Integrating renewable energy and battery storage allows operators to store electricity during off-peak periods and release it during peak demand. In addition to easing grid demand and reducing energy costs, this combination reduces the impact of power outages and boosts sustainability.

Access, Visibility and Safety:

All EV charging stations must comply with both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and The Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). EV charging stations should also be easily visible to EV drivers and have sufficient lighting for safety. This is particularly important for stations located in parking garages or lots.

Site Infrastructure Solutions

Collaboration is key. Public-private partnerships, including a licensed electrical contractor and the local utility, can reduce risks, ease financial burdens, and leverage resources.

Collaborating with the local utility from the planning stage forward can avoid costly, time-consuming changes later in the installation. In addition to offering technical guidance on connecting EV chargers to the local electric grid, local utilities can offer financial incentives and assist with local regulations and permitting. The DOE EV utility Finder tool provides information on local utility partners and incentives by zip code.

Financial Considerations

There's no denying that the up-front equipment purchases, installation costs, electrical upgrades, and permit costs can be daunting.

The cost of equipment can vary depending on several factors, such as where it's going to be used, the type of charging required, and the charging level. Other factors to consider include networking capabilities, anti-theft measures, power output (measured in kilowatts), types and numbers of connectors, simultaneous charging capacity, and operational features such as payment and data collection.

Installation costs can also change depending on factors such as the number and type of chargers needed, location, site preparation, existing wiring, upgrades needed to handle current and future charging needs, labor costs, and permits.

Financial Solutions

Utilizing existing federal and state incentives, grants, and tax credits for EV infrastructure development can greatly help reduce installation expenses. All 50 states now offer some form of EV incentive program.

  • The recent Inflation Reduction Act includes up to a 30% tax credit for EV charging stations within low-income or non-urban census areas through December 2032, up to a maximum of $100,000 per charger.

  •  The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program (NEVI) offers funds covering up to 80% of the costs of installing public charging infrastructure provided that the station serves the public and is located along Federal Highway Administration Alternative Fuel Corridors.

  • Information on available federal funding can be found on the U.S. Department of Transportation website. 

  • City and municipal organizations such as Clean Cities and Communities provide information on local EV programs with incentives.

  • If you’re located in California, the CALeVIP website provides a list of trusted EV charging station providers, funding and incentive information, and other EV-related resources.

Establishing a workable pricing structure for the station can help offset initial installation costs. There are a number of different pricing options, including:

  • Subscriptions: Under the Subscription model, customers pay a fixed monthly fee for a predetermined amount of EV charging access.

  • Pay-per-Use: Customers simply pay for the energy consumed during their charging session. Pay-per-use links revenue directly to usage provides transparent customer pricing and offers higher earnings during peak demand periods.

  • Tiered Pricing: As the name implies, tiered pricing bases prices based on tie-of-day, charger type, or customer type (members vs. non-members, etc.).

Local, Regional, and Federal Regulation Considerations

Diverse regulations and permitting procedures can be frustrating. In addition to adhering to local fire and building codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), charging installations require zoning approval, utility clearance, and any other municipality mandates.

Local Regulations Solutions

The AFDC Laws and Incentives site includes detailed federal and state requirements for the minimum number of charging ports, connector type, power levels, availability, payment methods, equipment certifications, and uptime requirements. 

The AFDC site also includes a permit template detailing the typical permitting requirements for EV charging station installations. If you’re located in California, the CALeVIP website provides a list of trusted EV charging station providers, funding and incentive information, and other EV-related resources.

Ownership Considerations

Charging station ownership generally falls into three primary categories: site-host-owned, third-party-owned, or EV Charging as a Service (EVCaaS).

Host Ownership:

Under this model, the site host owns the charging infrastructure and handles its purchase, installation, and upkeep. They are responsible for all capital costs, including hardware and installation, operations, and maintenance. While this model gives the owner greater control over the station and total revenue retention.

Third-Party Ownership:

Third-party ownership involves a site host leasing space to a third party that installs and operates the charging infrastructure. The third party may also take on some or all of the ownership, maintenance, and billing responsibilities. 

EV Charging-as-a-Service (EV CaaS):

Like other as-as-service options (think software), EV Charging as a Service provides a turnkey solution with fixed monthly payments. The benefits of EVaaS include:

  • Reduced risk since station monitoring, network operations, driver support, and maintenance are handled by the service provider

  • Lower upfront costs

  • CapEx conservation since operational expenditures can be used to pay for the charging infrastructure

  • Predictable monthly costs

  • Improved flexibility and scalability

Technology and Future Considerations

Like all technology-driven innovations, EV charging has evolved rapidly. Keeping up with this technology can be an ongoing challenge. As such, designing charging stations that can evolve and adapt to new technology is crucial.

One of the main technology obstacles is ensuring compatibility and interoperability between different charging standards. Establishing charging system standards is paramount as they will ensure interoperability, safety, and convenience for EV drivers. The challenge, of course, is finding an EV charging standardization protocol that all major players will accept.

The best EV charging management software should be open and future-proof. It should allow operators to easily add open protocols like OCPP and OCPI. An OCPP-compliant charge point management system (CPMS) enables compatibility with multiple devices, unlocks new features, and ensures ongoing adaptability as EV driver requirements evolve.

There are multiple EV charging management systems available to help site operators manage and optimize their charging infrastructure, including:

  • Energy management / Load balancing

  • Payment processing (prepaid, postpaid, pay-per-charge)

  • Hardware monitoring

  • Reports and analytics (consumption and revenue data)

  • User management and marketing

One Final Consideration

If you've made it to the end of this article, you're no doubt aware that while offering EV charging will have many long-term benefits for your organization and community, the actual installation process is riddled with challenges.

As such, we humbly suggest that if you're considering installing EV charging at your facility, you reach out to ABS. We can help!

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