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How to Select the Right Charging Level for Your Parking Facility

Posted 12/08/2023

Considering that there are already over 4.2 million electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States and there may be 48 million EVs on the road by 2030, installing electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) in your commercial or multifamily parking is an obvious choice. The U.S. federal government is simplifying the transition to EVs by offering federal tax incentives. These incentives apply to the purchase of new EVs, used EVs, commercial EVs, and also include a business tax credit for the installation of charging stations. But how do you decide which charging level you should install at your parking lot or garage? Here’s what parking managers and operators should know about commercial Level 2 and DC fast charging.

Considerations When Choosing EVSE for Your Parking Lot or Garage

When choosing the right chargers to install at your commercial parking facility, there are several factors you must consider including budget, driver behavior, and current electrical infrastructure.

What are the types of EV charging stations?

Let's start with an overview of different EV charger types and their applications. Electric vehicle charging is categorized into three power levels: Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3/DC fast charging. Level 1, primarily a trickle charge, is suitable for residential use. However, for commercial parking, the recommended chargers are Level 2 and DCFC. Level 2 (L2): Level 2 chargers for commercial buildings and multifamily are hardwired straight into your electrical system and come in a range of power output capabilities. These chargers use a 208/240V input to deliver up to 80amp and 19.2kW of electricity to the vehicle. Like Level 1 chargers, they feed alternating current (AC) into the vehicle’s on-board charger to convert to direct current (DC) power which can be stored in the battery. L2 chargers can charge an EV in four to eight hours depending on the station’s power output, the vehicle’s on-board charger, how full the battery is when plugged in, battery capacity, and how much the driver wants to charge the battery. (Drivers often only charge their batteries to 80% in order to take advantage of regenerative braking features.) Direct Current Fast Chargers: DC fast chargers, require much more electricity than a Level 2 and often require the installation of a new transformer. Using 480V of electricity to deliver 60 to 300+ kW of electricity to a vehicle, DC fast chargers convert AC to DC electricity and then bypass the on-board charger to feed the DC electricity straight into the vehicle’s battery. Typically, a DCFC can charge a battery in under an hour. Unfortunately for many interested property managers, they are more costly to install than L2 chargers and incompatible with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

How much does an EV charging station installation cost?

Based on a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation analyzing EV charging installation costs in major US metropolitan areas, the average total project cost for purchasing and installing a single-plug network commercial-grade Level 2 charger is approximately $6,000. Please note, this amount can vary based on factors like the specific charger model, existing infrastructure, labor expenses, permitting, and the necessary preparatory work for installation. For DCFCs, the average cost of installation begins at $45,506 for a single 50kW unit, not including the cost of the charging station itself. Expenses related to purchase and installation to consider include:

  • Number of chargers

  • Type of charging stations (Level 2 versus a low-power DCFC versus a high-power DCFC)

  • Potential electrical infrastructure upgrades

  • Permits

  • Possible concrete work

  • Bollards and other safety equipment

  • Labor costs

  • Materials like wiring and conduits

Forward-thinking businesses can also take advantage of economies of scale and save money in the future by adding make-ready infrastructure using this year’s labor and materials costs.

Funding Programs for EV Charging

There are often funding opportunities for commercial property managers looking to install EVSE, like the U.S. federal government’s Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit. This credit offers up to 30% of the cost of installing EV chargers up to $100,000 for qualifying businesses located in specific areas, like low-income communities or non-urban census tracts. Certain types of funding, like the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program, which provides funding for commercial properties within designated Alternative Fuels Corridors, will provide 4 DCFC but cannot be used for Level 2 chargers. Another program, the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) grant program, can be used for Level 2 charging in communities, but is restricted to state and local government applicants. Not sure if your business qualifies for one of the federal programs? State funding programs and tax incentives may be less restrictive. Use the Blink Charging Commercial Incentives tool to find more funding opportunities in your state.

How to ensure site compatibility for EVSE

Is your parking structure new? If your proposed parking spots are near a power source and your facility is already equipped with modern wiring, your project will likely cost less than if you must upgrade wiring or add trenching to the nearest closest power source. Every parking facility is different, which means that your team should conduct a site assessment prior to EVSE installation with your electrician and site manager to better plan your budget. There are ways to reduce installation costs, such as using local load management to share power between chargers. Your electrician can help you determine the best cost saving measures for your project.

Consider the duration of charging

For commercial properties where customers are spending a significant amount of time, L2 chargers will accommodate these visits well because of their longer charge times. Drivers can park their vehicle at an L2 charger and then go shopping, attend an appointment, or see a movie while waiting for their vehicle to complete charging. Thanks to the charging time, Level 2 chargers are perfect for workplaces and multifamily communities where drivers are already expected to charge for several hours, or at city centers or retailers where local businesses want to encourage drivers to spend more time shopping. For places where customers are typically in and out quickly, such as at near a highway, truck stop, or fleet depot, DCFCs may be a better option. Drivers at these locations expect to charge their vehicles while stopping for a quick meal before returning to their travels. Because of DCFCs’ fast charging times, station hosts can collect a premium fee for their usage. However, we do recommend that facilities that install DCFC also add at least one L2 charger to accommodate PHEVs.

Consider the types of vehicles that will charge

Charging a light-duty passenger battery electric vehicle (BEV) is different from charging a school bus which is different from charging a PHEV. While light-duty vehicles will require less powerful chargers, larger vehicles with larger batteries require more powerful chargers to charge in a timely manner. If your parking company has a fleet of vehicles, or if you run a truck stop along an alternative fuels corridor, you are more likely to need DCFCs and L2 chargers to serve your more transient audience. If you are primarily serving the general public and employees, Level 2 chargers will probably deliver enough power.

Getting Help With Your EVSE Installation

Because each location is different and each EVSE host has different needs, the best way to know if you are installing the right equipment at the best possible price is to choose a trusted electrification vendor and electrician. The Blink team is dedicated to assisting you every step of the way in selecting and installing the ideal chargers for your parking lot or garage. We'll guide you through the process, from conducting a site assessment to devising a comprehensive plan. Additionally, we'll assist you in identifying any potential funding opportunities you might qualify for. Ready to get started? Contact your Blink sales team today to get started with hosting EV charging at your parking facility.

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