Electrical Vehicle Charging Infrastructure: Plan Ahead to Be EV Ready
Plans for investment in commercial property enhancements and municipal revitalization projects generally include a storyboard picture of nice sidewalks, landscaping, building facades, and parking, but how often do you see an electric vehicle (EV) charging station incorporated into that portrait or plan? These projects can include significant electrical infrastructure for lighting, including parking, security, and landscape, which require underground installation of conduit before the sidewalks are completed and landscape installed.
Have you ever thought about anticipating where an EV parking space might best be located in order to install electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to charge employee or customer cars when the demand arrives? Let’s take a look at the importance of planning ahead for EV infrastructure and learn a few basics about what it means to establish an electrical infrastructure that is “EV ready.”
The term “EV ready” is broadly used to span a lot of territory from the public planning for parking to the emergency response to an electric vehicle car accident. All of the aspects are important, however, a focus on planning, anticipating, and even installing part of the electrical infrastructure for the expected EV-charging demand for a community or structure has significant benefit for all involved. Installing the electrical infrastructure may be as simple as having electrical conduit and/or electrical wiring capable of supporting the anticipated circuit capacity in place to where the EVSE will be installed. The stakeholders are numerous including multifamily dwellings, light commercial offices, and parking lots ranging from municipal facilities to university campuses. Fundamentally, many people purchase or lease an electric vehicle for the commute to their work place.
The benefits associated with being EV ready and planning ahead for the adoption of electric vehicles is significant. Some figures indicate an average of approximately 20 percent savings for the electrical infrastructure installation if you prepare for charging stations ahead of time. So planning and setting some guidelines to be used for your next infrastructure project is key whether you are guiding a small community, campus, or even a single facility that has a high potential to see an increase in EV charging needs.
How Can You Prepare Your Community, Campus, or Facility to Be EV Ready?
Establish a plan for those EV parking spaces by asking yourself a few questions:
- If 20 cars showed up in my community/campus, where would I locate an EV charger(s)?
- Is there planned construction in the immediate future or a timeline for renovation for these locations?
A good infrastructure practice would be to specify and run EV-ready conduits or circuits in the parking lots/garages during renovation and new construction in anticipation of installing EVSE in the future. There is limited expense, less hassle (such as business interruption), and lower cost (such as demolition and repair of sidewalks and landscape) to consider EV readiness during construction as compared to a dedicated project.
There are a number of considerations that may support preparing a facility for EV charging. Ask your employees, suppliers, renters, or customers if they are driving or anticipating driving an EV. Location of the parking and charging space is a significant key: Is it appropriately accessible? Consider distance to the electrical infrastructure since the further the charging station is, the more expensive the infrastructure will be to serve the charging station. Don’t discount visibility to the community of being a supporter of EV charging.
Technology, Current Code Adoption, and Maintenance Plays a Role in EV-Ready Planning
Leverage your knowledge about the latest technology available for your anticipated system in order to maximize your investment in infrastructure. Utilizing an energy management system for the EV infrastructure may reduce the infrastructure investment from the service to the branch circuit. Existing switchboards and panelboards may have the capacity to include an EVSE load if an energy management solution is used to monitor the load on the panel and ensure it is never exceeded by reducing or turning off the EVSE. A key aspect permitting this technology to be employed is the local state or city adopting the most current electrical code. Energy management for EVSE is a key component within the 2014 National Electric Code (NEC) that will require adoption and knowledge from the local electrical plan reviewer and inspector before realizing the potentially significant savings for infrastructure investment. This is a good reason to encourage your state and city to adopt the most current version of the electrical code.
All infrastructure requires some level of maintenance over time, so you need to address the maintenance/service necessary for the EV charging infrastructure. Depending upon the extent and complexity of the infrastructure, establishing a service contract or agreement may have significant benefit. The consequences of having an inoperable EVSE can result in negative publicity with the EV community or lost revenue that may have been a component of the finances to address the installation.
Becoming EV Ready is all about planning ahead. Develop a prioritized EV parking location strategy and then overlaying those potential priority EV parking and charging locations with planned or active infrastructure projects. Including or suggesting such planning and minimal electrical infrastructure investment be a component during other infrastructure investments will support a cost-effective installation for EV charging infrastructure as demand grows.
Alan Manche is the Director, Industry Standards at Schneider Electric. He served as the Co-chair of the American National Standards Institute EV Roadmap Infrastructure Working Group. Alan is currently the Chairman of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Section and serves on NEMA Codes and Standards. He also serves on NEC CMP-10 and the NEC Correlating Committee.