EV Chargers – The Good and the Bad
August 1, 2022
I hope everyone is enjoying the summer of 2022. In addition to the record heat, gas prices have also been at an all-time high (even adjusting for inflation) and with almost every major car brand (including Ferrari) rolling out new electric vehicles (EV), interest in electric vehicles is just as high as our summer temperatures. But EVs need a place to charge. Charging while parking is a feature many EV owners would prefer.
We have resisted the push for years but are now considering installing EV chargers in our parking lot. What do I need to know before I make the jump?
(Soon to be) Connected in California
Adding EV chargers to your parking location can provide a valuable service for your parkers, but like anything, it comes with a few things you need to know (and additional ongoing work.) The first thing to understand is there are different types of EV chargers. Currently, chargers are broken up by charging speed and connector type. Today chargers are classified as Level 1, 2, or 3 based on how quickly they can charge a vehicle. To help standardize the amount of charge put into a vehicle (think gallons of gas), the standard terms of charging speed are given in the time it takes to charge a battery enough to go a specific distance.
For example, a Level 1 charger takes approximately 20 hours to charge a vehicle sufficient to travel 124 miles, and 43 hours to charge a vehicle enough to drive 249 miles. A Level 1 charger uses about 1 Kilowatt (kW) of power. This amount is about the same amount used by a hair dryer. To put it in perspective, the power needed to run a bank of Tesla Superchargers (a Level 3 charger) during a set time period is approximately the same as what is required to run a high-rise office building during that same time.
In addition to charging levels, there are different types of connectors (because, of course, there are). At least in the United States, the primary non-Tesla connector for Level 1 and 2 charging is the J1772. It can be used by almost every EV on the road, including Teslas, when an adaptor is used. For Level 3 charging, the most standard non-Tesla connector is the CHAdeMO. There is an adaptor for this connector for Tesla vehicles outside the U.S., but it isn’t officially supported in the United States, yet.
On the vehicle side, the most popular connector type is the Tesla connector, which works for all three levels of charging. At this point (and this will be changing at some future date), Teslas can use non-Tesla charging, but non-Teslas cannot use Tesla charging. Due to this, I would recommend most parking locations install Level 2 chargers with J1772 connectors. This combination gives the broadest level of coverage for both parker usage and vehicle compatibility.
Once installed, these chargers are not a “set and forget” type product. They need to be maintained both physically and operationally. A Wired Magazine survey found that 27 percent of chargers reviewed in California were not functional. This is even more concerning considering that, according to the website Electrek, 31 percent of all public chargers in the United States are located in California. If you don’t want to add checking EV chargers to your list of daily items, selecting an EV charger that comes with monitoring and repairs as part of the overall service package would be a good idea.
In addition to keeping the chargers working, you also need to ensure that the spaces are open for electric vehicles to use them. One issue is an EV staying after their charging session is over. Another growing problem is non-EVs using spaces dedicated for EV charging. In some situations, this is accidental, but in others, it is very much on purpose.
To help ensure this doesn’t happen, EV space enforcement will need to become part of the broader parking operational plan. Each charging solution has some level of enforcement notification built-in with newer systems, using cameras to identify non-electric vehicles in charging spaces to do everything from notifying parking operators to automatically issuing notices, or even alerting tow companies to remove the vehicle.
As with any purchase, I would not go hastily into your decision. Look at the number of electric vehicles in your location now. Have discussions with those drivers about their charging needs. Talk with multiple vendors, consider your pricing options (there are many), and consider how these chargers will impact your operation. Overall, I do believe the shift to EV is a good one, but like all good things, it won’t come overnight, and it won’t be easy.