“Every couple of years, we’ve heard that this will be the year for electric vehicles and chargers to take off,” said Glenn Kurtz, vice president of Strategic Initiatives with Legacy Parking. “I think we are finally at the precipice of something amazing when it comes to EV chargers.”
Current trends predict that electric vehicles (EV) will become standard over the next 15 years. Most major automotive manufacturers have stated goals to convert most or all new car models to electric by 2035. The EV market has grown substantially in the past decade. This can be seen most visibly in the number of chargers throughout the United States.
EV charging stations currently come in three levels. A Level 1 charger is typically 120 volts fed from a standard wall outlet and is often referred to as a trickle charger. These chargers typically come with all EVs sold. The rate of charge is limited to 1.3 to 2.4 kW or 3-5 miles of EV range per hour charged. Level 1 chargers can take over 24 hours to completely charge an empty EV. Level 2 chargers can vary from 208 – 240 V, allowing for a range of 3 to 19 kW or about 18-28 miles of range per hour of charging. Level 3 charging is the fastest, at 480 volts with most cars being able to be charged up to 80-percent in 20 – 40 minutes and 100-percent in 60 – 90 minutes. Technology may find a way to reduce this time to a level similar to filling a gas tank as many researchers are working on this challenge.
There are a few novel ideas for solving current charger limitations. One idea that has gained traction in the Midwest involves roadways that charge vehicles through induction while electric vehicles drive on them. This is being tested in the Midwest, with Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer announcing construction of the first mile of wireless charging road in the U.S. in Detroit. If this solution works, it could reduce the battery size requirements and the need for as many charging stations but with likely costlier infrastructure and maintenance.
Another possibility involves the utilization of batteries in charging stations. These chargers would slowly fill connected batteries over time with a level 1 or 2 charger, then send a kW comparable to level 3 chargers to quickly fill EV batteries. This technology could reduce the infrastructure costs for fast charging, as older infrastructure could keep pace with charging needs without costly improvements.
A brief look into the EVs that are on the market and on the roads shows a change in the pattern of commercial charging needs. When the first EVs hit the road, they had a more limited driving range leading to range anxiety and the worry about the ability to charge away from home. This issue has been reduced with many new EVs increasing their range to 250 miles per charge. For those vehicles, range anxiety for daily commutes has been all but erased. For vehicles with sub-100-mile ranges, charging station availability remains an issue.
The mainstream automotive industry began its gradual shift to electric vehicles with the advent of the Toyota Prius in 2000. The Prius demonstrated how the addition of batteries and an electric drivetrain could improve the efficiency of internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles in these Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV). From there, the Nissan Leaf pushed its way in as the first mass-produced fully electric vehicle in December of 2010. EV adoption was bolstered by the introduction of the federal EV tax credit in the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act, as well as numerous state and local tax credits such as Sarasota County, Florida’s ChargeUP! Sarasota County program, or Delaware’s Electric Vehicle Charging Equipment Rebates. Many programs are offered through local utility providers, some of which can be found in this article.
On the federal level, the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allocated $5 billion over five years for a national network of EV charging stations under the New Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. ten-percent of funds are set-aside each year for grants to US states to help fill gaps in the network. States are required to submit an EV infrastructure deployment plan to gain access to a portion of the $615 million allocated for 2022. An additional $2.5 billion is available for communities and corridors through competitive grants. These grants will be awarded to innovative solutions for rural charging support, increasing EV charging access in disadvantaged communities, and other criteria.
With the continued growth of EV adoption, commercial real estate will need to address this challenge. There are challenges in understanding and identifying what consumers and tenants will demand versus the convenience of the offered amenity. Installing charging stations may not be a question of if, but when and how many. And the largest question of all still remains, how can tenants or customers be appropriately charged for this amenity? Several of these answers will change as the laws, auto industry, and consumers evolve over the next decade.
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