How do I Find Charging Stations?
Every EV driver should install the PlugShare app on their smartphone and bookmark the website in their browsers: http://www.plugshare.com/ This is the go-to map for finding not only public charging stations along your route, but also – like the name implies – home charging stations at individual users’ homes they have chosen to share with other EV drivers if they are in the neighborhood and need a charge. If you own a business and want to attract INSTANT attention to nearly every EV driver simply install a charging station in your parking lot. The expense will be more than made up for by all the increased business of EV drivers coming to your charging station instead of to your competitors without one.
Why Should I Install Charging Stations?
It is easy and less expensive than most people realize to install charging stations at their business. Providing charging stations contributes to the infrastructure that allows electric vehicle drivers to visit your business and do so without using any foreign oil and producing significantly less pollution than if they used an internal combustion engine. Charging stations attract a desirable customer that is twice as wealthy as the average American. Electric vehicle owners are very enthusiastic about their vehicles and that enthusiasm carries over to businesses that provide them places to charge. Providing even a standard 110v outlet so EV drivers can use their portable chargers will get your business noticed on sites frequented by electric vehicle users like http://www.plugshare.com and will attract more customers. In fact, the Space Coast EV Drivers club meets monthly at businesses that are near charging stations. These businesses are already seeing the benefits and getting the extra patronage and revenue simply by having a charging station nearby or on the premises.
Providing charging stations for employees is greatly appreciated and helps to retain and attract employees. There are over 20 electric vehicles available from major manufacturers. EV use continues to rise with over a quarter of a million electric cars in America today. More and more of your employees will be looking for a place to work that allows them to charge their electric car for the ride home.
Providing charging stations for tenants at apartments and condos can set you apart from your competition. It also makes the most sense because almost every EV owner does 90% or more of their charging overnight at home. For more information about charging stations and multi-family dwellings take a look at this document from FPL.
The Space Coast EV Drivers Club is here to answer any questions you may have. We have a wealth of knowledge in the field with over 1000 combined hours of continued, daily research and can provide unbiased opinions about your options. If you have any questions after looking over the information here, please shoot us an email at SpaceCoastEVDrivers@gmail.com.
There are 3 different levels of charging stations and it is helpful to know the differences when deciding what to install at your business.
CHARGING SPEED: 4 – 5 electric miles for each hour plugged in
A Level 1 station is just a basic 110v outlet that everyone has in their home and office when made available for EVs to use. If they are for daily EV use then a more durable outlet should be used, otherwise any normal outlet will work. EV owners bring their own charging cord that comes with every electric vehicle and it simply plugs into the outlet on one side and their car on the other. Most of these portable chargers can be used by any other EV make and model. A Chevy Volt can use the portable charger that came with a Nissan Leaf for example, and vice versa. This is the slowest charging option, but also the least expensive. You may already have an outlet on the outside of your building that can be used if it is within 10 feet of a parking space. If there is not already an outlet that close to a parking space, an electrician can usually install one fairly easily. Materials for these outlets usually cost less than $30. This charging level normally only makes sense for an overnight charge such as at your home, a hotel, an airport parking garage, a sea port, or a train station but it can be used in a pinch to give you enough miles to reach the next, faster charging station.
CHARGING SPEED: 8 – 16 electric miles for each hour plugged in
A Level 2 station is what most people think of when they think of electric vehicle charging stations. A Level 2 station provides 240 volts, twice as many as a Level 1 outlet, and thus charge two to four times as fast as a Level 1. The speed at which vehicles will charge varies based on which model of EV your customer has. Level 2 stations, complete with the plug that goes to the car, must be purchased and installed. Stations rated for outdoor use can easily be found for under $400. You must hire a licensed electrician to install the equipment once you have purchased it. One of the major cost factors is if you want a standard Level 2 charger that a consumer would buy for their home that simply plugs in and starts charging without tracking power usage or requiring any kind of card to swipe. Compared to a more expensive charging station with wireless internet hardware and a power meter inside to measure the power usage and report back to the station provider’s network so you can run reports and see how the charger is getting used. This is explained a little more in the FEES vs FREE section below. The Level 2 charging station makes the most sense at places where an EV would be parked for at least an hour or so anyway such as: shopping malls and plazas, movie theaters, grocery stores, and most definitely at the place where you work.
CHARGING SPEED: 160 – 170 electric miles for each hour plugged in
A Level 3 station is capable of charging certain cars incredibly fast, but are currently incredibly expensive. Level 3 stations use a different kind of cord to plug into the car than is used on a Level 1 or 2 charger. Currently, about half of Nissan Leafs have this plug as well as some Mitsubishi i-MiEVs. Other vehicles cannot use a Level 3 charging station. For those that can use it, it allows them to fill an empty battery in under half an hour. This would let a Nissan Leaf driver that lives in Orlando drive over to the beach in Melbourne, plug up at the level 3 charger at Melbourne City Hall for a half hour, and grab a bite or do some shopping at one of the many restaurants and businesses downtown. By the time they’re finished the car is already charged and ready for the beach. A quick, 10 minute top off at the charger on the way home would get them back home without any worry of running out of juice. If the charger was installed in one of the beach access parking lots it would allow them to charge while they were actually spending time at the beach where the car would be parked the whole time anyway. It would not make sense to spend the money for such a fast charger like this for a location where the car would be parked for a long time like overnight at a hotel. A Level 1 or Level 2 charger would work best for these locations. A fast charger like this also would not make sense for places like an airport or ship port where a car would be parked for several days at a time. A Level 1 (110v outlet) would make perfect sense at a location like this since it costs so little to install a standard outlet and it would charge any EV completely in the time the owner would be away. A Level 3 charger makes sense for locations that are “on the way” to major cities or attractions and near businesses where the driver can buy a cup of coffee or a snack while they wait the 30-45 minutes for the car to charge. A Level 3 quick charger is normally used to top up the battery and get on their way.
FEES VS. FREE
There are several companies that will provide your business with the ability to charge the people that use the charging station at your business. There are pros and cons to using this system and to allowing people to charge for free.
PROS: This system allows you to sell electricity to EV owners and set your price. You can charge users by the kilowatt hour (most common) or by the minute (less common and usually avoided by some EV owners). The companies that sell the equipment also sell you the service of collecting the fees so you get a monthly check without having to do anything but pay your power bill. Some companies like SemaConnect only charge you for the equipment and you keep 100% of the profit.
CONS: This system is much more expensive to start with and there are annual fees after installation for some of the data network providers. A Level 2 charging station that would cost under $600 for equipment when allowing users to charge for free costs $4,500 or more to get the equipment that allows you to sell electricity. The companies that sell you the equipment charge around $250 annually to collect fees for you (except for companies like SemaConnect).
The standard rate for stations that charge in our area is $0.13 / kwh. In our experience, EV drivers don’t mind paying this charge, however, it is only a few cents more than the electricity costs and will take a very long time to recoup the higher initial costs.
Some businesses have installed fee charging stations with the hopes that they will produce revenue by charging EV users significantly more than the cost of electricity. There is no quicker way to lose the goodwill generated by the installation of a charging system than to make EV users believe that you are trying to take advantage of them. About half of the electric vehicles in our area are known as Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles – PHEV – that can switch to a gas engine when they run out of electric. While driving electric is much preferred for these owners, it is not required. These drivers never need to find a charging station. For the drivers using electric only vehicles, their electric only range is generally sufficient to get them back to their homes for recharging without having to find a place to plug in around town. Nissan Leafs get 84 miles on a full battery. Tesla’s Model S can get over 300 miles to the charge. Charging stations are a welcome convenience and a show of support for EV drivers that give them more options on where to shop, eat, or watch a movie – like your business! EV drivers differ from traditional motorists in that they can usually fill up at home and do not need to purchase fuel elsewhere. As such, it is our experience that fee stations charging more than $0.13 / kwh are not used frequently and do not create the goodwill that systems selling electricity at $0.13 / kwh or less do. Any fee system will take a great deal of time before it will reach the breakeven point with a free system. Not to mention the difference in revenue you would gain with the extra patronage by the larger number of EV drivers a free system would attract.
PROS: These systems are at least 7 times less expensive to get started with than a fee system. There is no annual contract required for these systems. The only cost is the initial installation and the small amount of electricity you provide for your customers and employees.
EV drivers very much appreciate the ability to charge away from home. It allows vehicles that switch to gas to stay electric longer. This allows drivers to fuel their trip with domestically produced energy more efficiently and cleaner than if they used their gas option. EV drivers using a battery only option can travel further knowing a charging station is available at their destination and reach your business where they probably could not before. Installing a free system shows a high level of support for EV drivers and creates a very high sense of loyalty between your business and the driver that will keep them coming back.
CONS: You are providing electricity for free. At $0.13 / kwh, it takes just over $1.50 of electricity to fill a Chevrolet Volt, the most common EV in our area, from empty to full. On a Level 2 station, the Volt uses about $0.38 of electricity per hour at the $0.13 / kwh rate while charged in. A Nissan Leaf, the most common battery only EV today, will cost about $3.60 to go from full to empty and will charge at either $0.38 or $0.76 per hour depending on the equipment it has. Both of these examples drop to $0.19 per hour on Level 1 stations because of the slower speed of charging. But by giving away the 1 or 2 dollars of electricity you will more than make back with the extra revenue created by the EV driver spending extra time at your business and spending more money on things they wouldn’t have normally noticed if they weren’t spending that extra dwell time. This extra revenue from extra customer dwell time is one of the things most missed by business owners when they hear about giving away electricity for free.
Again, if you have any questions whatsoever do not hesitate to email us to get answers from real life, daily EV drivers that work and shop here in and around Brevard County.
FREE CHARGING STATIONS!
There are also other ways and means to get charging stations installed at your business for free. Volta is a company based in the USA that builds charging stations into a nice looking, double sided, back-lit 5 foot tall advertisement display. Since advertisers pay for a very focused location – advertising directly to EV drivers and other customers that walk by it – this money goes back to Volta who can then pay for the hardware, installation costs, AND send a check to the business / host for all the electricity used! This makes this charging station free in every aspect: installation, maintenance, and free to use by EV drivers – they just plug in and charge up while they shop at your business without swiping any cards or pushing any buttons. It couldn’t be easier – and made in the USA! Learn more about Volta and contact them here: http://www.voltacharging.com. Here’s an example of their charging stations:
You can also contact Adopt-a-Charger, a non-profit who’s goal is to get as many charging stations into the public space as possible as quickly as possible. They help local businesses and city / local governments “sponsor” a charging station to help offset or pay for the equipment. Visit their website to contact them here: http://adoptacharger.org. Here’s an example from their website:
“Adopt a Charger, a nonprofit organization, accelerates the widespread adoption of plug-in vehicles through the proliferation of public, fee-free electric car chargers which are “adopted” by sponsors. These sponsors, corporations, organizations and individuals, donate funds used to install and maintain EV chargers in parks, museums, beaches and other widely used public places.”
The Space Coast EV Drivers Club does not directly endorse any particular electrician or electrical company. We do provide the name and contact information of electricians that our members have used to install their own Level 2 charging stations. Once you decide on the level and brand of charging station you want you should contact a licensed electrician to get an estimate of installation costs. Remember that installing a Level 2 charging station should not cost any more than installing a 220/240 outlet like the one used by a clothes dryer. So you may even have to ask the electrician how much they charge for running a new 220 outlet first. Installing the actual charging station itself usually only involves hanging it on the wall with a few screws then putting the three wires into the box and tightening them down with some set screws. It’s so easy you could do it yourself but we recommend having someone licensed and insured do the electrical work.
5555 Judson Rd
Merritt Island, FL 32953
Vinnie the Electrician